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[P]
Diesel Wins at Le Mans

By frankwork in Technology
Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 06:24:35 AM EST
Tags: diesel, le mans, audi, r10 (all tags)

Over the past weekend, in front of a record 235,000 spectators, the Audi R10 took first place in the 24 hours at Le Mans, arguably the world's premier endurance racing event. This marks the most significant victory yet for a diesel-powered car in a major racing event, and possibly an important turning point in the perception (held by many Americans) that diesels are noisy, stinky, and slow: the Audis were the quietest, cleanest, and fastest cars in the race. Significantly, they were also the most fuel efficient.


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On average, the Audi drivers refueled only every 14 laps, considerably less often than the petrol-powered entries. At one point a record-setting 16 laps were driven on a single 90-liter fuel load. By the end of the 24-hour race, the winning R10 was on it's 380th lap, a new record for the event.

Unveiled late in 2005, the R10 is Audi Motorsport's most expensive project ever, costing an estimated 70 million Euros per year. It is an all-new design that nonetheless looks remarkably like it's predecessor, the massively successful gasonline-fueled R8. It is powered by a turbocharged all-aluminum 90° V12 with common-rail direct injection that generates 650bhp and 811 lb-ft of torque in competition form. The power band lies between 3000 to 5000 RPM, a range so low as to be virtually unheard of in modern race cars. But its primary weakness is weight: the engine is rumored to weigh upwards of 200 kilograms, about 50% more than a comparable petrol-powered engine.

This is not the first diesel to enjoy racing success. In 1931 Dave Evans became the first driver to complete the Indianapolis 500 without refueling. BMW and VW have raced touring cars, the former winning the 24 hours Nürbergring event based primarily on the extended range afforded by its diesel powerplant. Nor is this the first diesel to run at Le Mans. That honor belongs to a Lola powered by a Caterpillar-badged VW V10 that ran in 2004. But there is little doubt that both Audi's TDI brand and the Diesel cycle scored a major coup last weekend.

But does this race represent the Fosbury Flop of endurance racing, or was it an artifact of this year's rules? The answer, more than likely, is a bit of both.

The concessions afforded diesel-powered cars at Le Mans this year are numerous. Compared with a turbocharged gasoline-fueled car, the diesels enjoy a 50-percent larger displacement limit, a 52-percent larger intake restrictor, and an absolute boost pressure limit nearly twice as high. Additionally, the diesels are allowed variable nozzle turbines in their turbochargers. It is also rumored that Audi successfully lobbied to raise the minimum weight to accommodate the R10's massive powerplant.

While diesels in the wild enjoy significant fuel savings over equivalent petrol cars, the differences largely diminish when operating at full throttle (the so-called pumping losses incurred by a petrol engine sucking air past a partly closed throttles goes away when that throttle is wide open). The differences in fuel consumption nearly vanish when one takes into account the higher energy density of diesel fuel: gallon-for-gallon diesel packs about twelve percent more heat energy.

At the same time, the lean-burn character of a diesel engine requires it to pass more air through the engine for every unit of energy sent out the crankshaft. Coupled with the extremely low maximum engine speed (limited by the speed of combustion inherent in compression-ignition engines), a corresponding increase in displacement and/or boost pressure is needed to achieve the same power output as a smaller, higher-strung petrol powerplant. As for the rule against VNTs in turbo-petrol cars, it is likely a cost-saving measure (their much higher exhaust gas temperatures make engineering a reliable variable-nozzle arrangement an expensive endeavor). So from a first-order numbers perspective, the rule changes are perfectly fair, except for that twelve percent number: we might well see eighty-liter fuel tanks on next year's slate of diesel-powered entries.

In any case, it could be argued that this year's race is as much an underestimation of diesel's potential by the rules-making committee as it is an affirmation of diesel's capabilities by Audi's win. But to draw a meaningful conclusion one really has to go back to why racing events have rules, and what results the rule-setting bodies are attempting to achieve.

Broadly speaking, racing organizers aim to hold a safe and affordable event (by their own admittedly skewed standards) that is either technically interesting, compelling for spectators, or (ideally) both. To keep Le Mans technically interesting, a wide variety of technologies are allowed. At the same time, some "correction factors" have to be applied to ensure that the race isn't a field day for certain technologies leaving others in the dust; in other words, to keep the race somewhat interesting to watch1. In any case, the addition of diesels to the mix certainly made this year's race noteworthy.

Audi, for its part, is using this race to cement its TDI brand of assorted turbocharged direct-injection diesel engines as not just an economy brand, but a performance one as well. And evidently they are willing to spend upwards of $100 million to do it. Presumably any technological advances that fall out of the project are gravy.

At one point in automotive history it was believed--perhaps rightly so--that racing enhanced the state of the art in such a way as to be applicable to road cars. While this is ever less the case, it is still a secondary aim of many racing events that the race cars should, first and foremost, be cars. In Europe, where 55% of new cars are diesel, it is only logical that such cars be fielded, and that the Le Mans event should put the pinnacle of diesel technology to the test in the way that only the premier 24-hour endurance race can.

Sources:

1This is the genius of NASCAR, which almost universally elicits wrinkled noses from automotive technical enthusiasts: while the cars are restricted to 1950's-state-of-the-art configurations, they are so evenly matched that "turning left 1000 times" becomes more fun to watch than many Formula One races.

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Related Links
o Audi R10
o Fosbury Flop
o 1
o Wikipedia entry on the R10
o Audi's Press Release
o Official Rules for the Le Mans series
o Also by frankwork


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Diesel Wins at Le Mans | 63 comments (43 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
*FAP**FAP**FAP**FAP* (2.44 / 9) (#1)
by t1ber on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 09:43:19 PM EST

TEH WINNAR!

The reason why diesels have such a low reputation in the US is because emissions laws are virtually nonexistent for diesels in most parts of the US.  The result is that most diesels in the US are oilburning, disgusting, detuned and loud.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

Mostly True (3.00 / 5) (#6)
by frankwork on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 12:29:42 AM EST

The standards for trucks, buses, and 1980's-era diesels were quite lax. On the other hand, they are now so tight that only a single car (the Mercedes E320 BlueTec) will have 50-state certification in 2007. VW is actually dropping their massively-popular diesel models in 2007 (but building some extra '06es to compensate) to retool for 2008. Likewise the Jeep Liberty CRD is going away in 2007, but should be back before too long.

[ Parent ]
That Sucks (none / 1) (#20)
by unknownlamer on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:54:42 PM EST

I hate how US emissions standards are done per mile instead of per gallon, and thus penalize fuel efficient cars that are actually putting out fewer emissions.

I really want a TDI car to replace my dead Camaro (a car that gets less than 45mpg highway costs too much for me to drive now).


--
<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
lol what (none / 0) (#21)
by tetsuwan on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 03:23:42 PM EST

I hate how US emissions standards are done per mile instead of per gallon, and thus penalize fuel efficient cars that are actually putting out fewer emissions.
If the emission standard is per mile it certainly benefits fuel efficient cars.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#22)
by unknownlamer on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 03:27:58 PM EST

Imagine a car that puts out 500 units of evil per mile and gets 30MPG, and another that puts out 600 units of evil per mile and gets 50MPG. Which one is hurting the environment more?

The car that gets 50MPG will not be legal in the US because OH NO IT FAILS EMISSIONS STANDARDS.


--
<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
Ah Errr (none / 0) (#23)
by unknownlamer on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 03:29:08 PM EST

I really meant per gallon and not per mile. I can't read my own writing.

Swap gallons and miles in my first post. Oops. Sorry.


--
<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
Furthermore... (3.00 / 7) (#9)
by gordonjcp on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:44:21 AM EST

... what oil companies get away with selling as diesel in the US won't even run UK and EU diesel engines. It's too dirty and has way too much sulphur.
You can, of course, run diesel engines on vegetable oil, with little or no modification. I ran my 1988 Citroën CX 25DTR on waste veg oil, with no modifications, and got slightly better performance, quieter running and far cleaner emissions.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Did you pay your duty? (none / 1) (#13)
by pwhysall on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 05:16:13 AM EST


--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Yup. (none / 1) (#18)
by gordonjcp on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:41:26 PM EST

Well, on the stuff used for road fuel, anyway.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
does that imply (none / 0) (#31)
by t1ber on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 07:39:21 PM EST

they made you pay tax on the veg oil because it's being used as road fuel?

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Exactly so. (none / 0) (#33)
by pwhysall on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:07:09 PM EST


--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Yes... (none / 0) (#36)
by gordonjcp on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 01:56:17 PM EST

... because road fuel has duty on it. For biomass fuels it's around 26p/litre. You often get people to pay you to take away waste veg oil, which offsets this.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
did it require conversion parts? (none / 1) (#16)
by t1ber on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:41:17 AM EST

I'm collecting links on the "diesel engine to oil conversion" with plans to build one which uses hydrogen taken from water and waste veg oil. Even if it doesn't get fantastic mileage, waste veg oil is so cheap I could care less.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Not really (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by gordonjcp on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 02:42:18 PM EST

Although it was hard to start on straight veg oil when the temperature got below 10C. I got round this by using mineral diesel mixed with it, but some people use electric fuel preheaters.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
WAY TO GO (none / 0) (#63)
by hiervision on Sun Oct 29, 2006 at 01:52:42 AM EST

Veg is a no brainer toward getting off the grid... not being another pawn under the thumbs of corporate cartels. I'm all for it. Looking for an old 'cedes right now.

Check out my site to see some other ways of keepin' it green:
MyFlyFamily.com

[ Parent ]

I drove an audi once (1.87 / 8) (#24)
by actmodern on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 03:53:11 PM EST

Good stuff.


--
LilDebbie challenge: produce the water sports scene from bable or stfu. It does not exist.
yer dad was feelin generous that day? (none / 0) (#35)
by nostalgiphile on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 06:39:38 AM EST

J/k, I realize yer one of those old fuckers who likes to test drive cars he can't afford.

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
[ Parent ]
Noisy, Stinky, and Slow (none / 1) (#37)
by tthomas48 on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 02:35:50 PM EST

I think that's why American's don't buy new Diesels. They like Noisy, Stinky, and Slow. Equate it with manhood or something. Look at Texas. They sell tons of enormous diesel trucks. They're supposed to be commercial trucks, but people use them to commute.  Look at motorcycles. Boomers are buying custom motorcyles by the boat load that sound like a cross between a helicopter and a machine gun, and get the same miles per gallon as an suv.
American's still don't really care about efficiancy. They care about Noisy, Stinky and Slow. Even sports cars are often sold with more emphasis on their horse power than acceleration speed. As though you're going to be towing a boat with your sports car.
It's a weird country.

IHBT (none / 0) (#38)
by More Ron on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 05:11:17 PM EST

Acceleration is directly proportional to applied force for a given mass. Applied force is maximized by maximizing power at a given velocity.

Horsepower is acceleration.

Ik geef u een recept voor zetpillen.
[ Parent ]

Acceleration, Horsepower and Torque (3.00 / 3) (#40)
by frankwork on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 08:13:47 PM EST

You're right, horsepower and acceleration are the same thing, given a skilled driver and a reasonable transmission (gearbox for those not in the states). So in one sense torque doesn't really matter: the transmission should be able to compensate. In any case, I think he meant to say torque. The problem comes down to that an automotive writer's definition of torque differs from that of an engineer. What the automotive writer is saying is that the engine can make a reasonable percentage of it's peak power at relatively low (engine) speed, or that it can do it over a broad range of engine speeds. (The engineer takes the torque measurement over a range of revs, multiplies it by the RPM, and comes up with a horsepower curve.) But the old adage that people "buy horsepower and drive torque" has some truth to it. What most people want is a car that feels fast when they stomp on the gas pedal, which often has little to do with the advertised horsepower.

[ Parent ]
There's nothing like American Muscle! (none / 0) (#62)
by slimpikkins on Wed Jul 26, 2006 at 02:50:08 PM EST

Fast cars and fast women, now that's what it's all about!

-- I was once like you...then I took my asshat off...
[ Parent ]
I don't get it (none / 0) (#39)
by rhiannon on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 06:48:02 PM EST

Significantly, they were also the most fuel efficient.

The differences in fuel consumption nearly vanish when one takes into account the higher energy density of diesel fuel

So which is it? Significantly more fuel efficient or vanishingly more? This is something that's always bothered me about the diesel/gas comparison, no one uses a fair metric for comparison, I don't even know if there is one or if it's too complicated of a comparison to make, but mpg is certainly misleading.

I really don't see how it's fair in a race to use volume as the fuel limit, they should use something like MJ/kg or btu/kg to figure out the volume needed for the same amount of stored energy.

Anyway, the whole "tech from racing trickles down to consumers" argument is specious bullshit, sure, some of the high tech stuff does trickle down, but 70 million euros a year in the hands of a true research organization(or even some college students) would promote real innovation.

-----------------------------------------
I continued to rebuff the advances... so many advances... of so many attractive women. -MC

I'm not sure (none / 0) (#41)
by frankwork on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 08:22:22 PM EST

I couldn't find any figures of what kind of range a spark ignition Le Mans car could pull off on 90 liters, but the 14-lap average and 16-lap record were definitely highlighted as out of the ordinary in the Audi press release.

In any case, perhaps "economical" would have been a better choice of words, since on a BTU-for-BTU basis, the differences might shrink or perhaps vanish.

As for the expense, I was trying to point out not that they're going to get a bunch of tech out of it, but that it was mostly a very expensive marketing exercise.

[ Parent ]

I'm basically just agreeing with you (none / 0) (#56)
by rhiannon on Thu Jun 29, 2006 at 04:38:59 AM EST

other than the part about being efficient

-----------------------------------------
I continued to rebuff the advances... so many advances... of so many attractive women. -MC
[ Parent ]
Neither (none / 0) (#43)
by PigleT on Fri Jun 23, 2006 at 09:00:20 AM EST

rhiannon writes: "So which is it? Significantly more fuel efficient or vanishingly more?"

Neither. If you read the article, you'll see that the significance is that they were more fuel-efficient, not the amount by which the efficiency differed.
Likewise, the difference vanishes *when the throttle's open*.
~Tim -- We stood in the moonlight and the river flowed
[ Parent ]

you never fixed the 'gasonline' typo.Lol. (none / 0) (#42)
by newb4b0 on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 08:47:16 PM EST


http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.

Yeah, um... (none / 1) (#44)
by trhurler on Sat Jun 24, 2006 at 12:32:36 PM EST

If they had to compete on anything remotely resembling technically fair terms, they wouldn't have entered a diesel car. Them's the facts.

When a diesel wins in a formula car race, then that'll be interesting. But it will never ever happen until someone creates 'Formula Diesel' because the engines weigh too much, are too tall, and don't have the flexibility of design that has lead to the ultra high output ultra low displacement formula engines seen today. As warped as it has become, formula racing is still the way to prove technical superiority.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Not sure what you're getting at (none / 0) (#45)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 08:49:50 AM EST

"As warped as it has become, formula racing is still the way to prove technical superiority."

Only if you're talking about F1 cars. An F1 car is not a family sedan.

[ Parent ]

No... (none / 0) (#46)
by trhurler on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 04:18:43 PM EST

I'm talking about engine technology. Not this car or that car.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Not all cars (none / 0) (#47)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 05:50:39 PM EST

benifit from the same engines.

[ Parent ]
In that case, (none / 0) (#48)
by trhurler on Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 06:38:13 PM EST

It means absolutely nothing that a diesel won Le Mans.

You can't have it both ways.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Le Mans isn't F1 $ (none / 0) (#50)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 08:49:39 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Formula Diesel (none / 1) (#52)
by frankwork on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 06:01:00 PM EST

This article started off as a blog post, but I was proud of how it turned out and no one reads my blog, so I decided to post it here.

It started off as sort of a congratulatory piece, until I read a bit more about the concessions granted to the diesel-powered entries, at which point it evolved into a debunking piece.

But eventually I came around to the idea that IMSA wanted an interesting contest between diesels and otto-cycle cars, and set the rules to try and achieve that.

You could say much the same thing about turbocharged versus normally-aspirated entries: turbocharged Le Mans cars have smaller restrictors and smaller displacement limits. Same with four-valve versus two-valve engines.

Just because an F1 car couldn't hold a candle to a (now) hypothetical turbocharged F1 car, doesn't mean F1 is bogus.
Just because a diesel Le Mans car needs a bigger restrictor and a larger engine and whatnot to be competitive doesn't mean this year's victory is meaningless.

[ Parent ]

it does mean it doesn't really show anything (none / 0) (#54)
by Delirium on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 09:54:53 PM EST

It doesn't, for example, show that diesel engines are competitive with gasoline engines at racing speeds, unless you define "competitive with" to mean something really vague, like "well at least when they're given huge advantages they don't lose".

What I care about as someone who has some interest in cars and occasionally buys one is: What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of diesels versus non-diesels? This race doesn't really tell me much there.

I do indeed have the same criticisms of their turbocharged versus normally-aspirated rules. Now if the goal is entertainment, then they can make whatever rules they want, but it sure doesn't show anything on a technical level that, say, a normally-aspirated engine can beat a turbocharged one when the turbocharged one is given a handicap. It definitely doesn't show that normally-aspirated engines are superior or even as good.

[ Parent ]

Fuel Efficient?!? (1.50 / 4) (#49)
by coward anonymous on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 03:04:34 AM EST

According to Wikipedia, a Le Mans lap is 13.65km long. You say the Audi ran a "record-setting" 16 laps on 90 liters of fuel --> 13.65 * 16 / 90 = 2.42km/liter (or 6 mpg for USians).

That's like boasting that you are the tallest midget in the world. I would not use this race as an efficiency yard stick.

How fuel efficient is YOUR car? (3.00 / 4) (#51)
by Zeriel on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 02:18:41 PM EST

Keep in mind we're talking about pedal-to-the-floor racing speeds here, not your 55-mph commute.  6mpg efficiency is not bad at all--at 160+mph for long stretches.

Remember, fuel efficiency decreases exponentially with speed because wind drag increases exponentially with speed.

Same reason that 55mph is commonly cited as the best-efficiency speed for modern gasoline cars--it's a pretty good estimate for the tipping point between absolute engine efficiency (increases as throttle increases, IIRC) and drag.

[ Parent ]

wind draw goes as speed squared [n/t] (none / 0) (#53)
by JackStraw on Mon Jun 26, 2006 at 07:44:25 PM EST


-The bus came by, I got on... that's when it all began.
[ Parent ]
efficiency = less pit stops for fuel = big deal (none / 1) (#57)
by brettd on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 01:29:47 AM EST

The circuit is 8.482 miles.  They did 380 laps (3,223 miles roughly), and they did it in about 24 hours, 5 minutes(1445 min, or about 24.08 hours).  That's an average overall speed of 133-134MPH, not counting time spent in pit stops, so tack on maybe another .5-1mph depending on how long the pit stops were and how many they had.

If you manage to get a 2040lb car with 650HP around a race course with an average speed of 135MPH with full-throttle acceleration 3/4 of the time, and do better than 6mpg, you give me (and the rest of the racing world) a call, because Audi saved about 4 pit stops for fuel with the direction-injection diesel technology.

I don't know how much time is lost on a pit stop, but it's probably at least a minute, maybe two (pit lane speeds are restricted, you're probably doing a driver change, fuel, and tires)...given an average lap at 133mph is 3.5-3.6 minutes, that's a substantial competitive advantage.

[ Parent ]

cool new tech (none / 1) (#55)
by LeftyLinux on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 08:53:48 PM EST

I read about this a few days ago and I am impressed! hopefully this tech will find its way in to the avarage freight hauling trucks (18 wheelers)  not for speed but for a cleaner and quieter engine.

direct injection is extremely common... (none / 0) (#58)
by brettd on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 01:37:39 AM EST

In passenger cars in europe, it is often called "common rail" injection or "CDI", since the injection is not driven by a high-pressure pump, but piezo injectors (just like on a gas EFI car) valving off a common single super-high pressure fuel line.

According to some googling, Mack did some sort of (mechanical, of course) direct-injection engine in 1953, and today sells both electronic and mechanical direct-injection diesel powerplants.  I'm sure Caterpillar, International, etc do too.  I know squat about diesel big rigs, but I'd be astounded if the technology wasn't wide-spread.

[ Parent ]

I own a diesel Audi A4 (none / 1) (#59)
by Herring on Sun Jul 02, 2006 at 07:20:16 PM EST

Cruising at 70-80mph it gets >60mpg. At 110, it only gets about 47 though. Haven't checked at 130 - too busy concentrating. Fucking brilliant car. Just thought you'd like to know.

Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
Call that efficient? (none / 1) (#60)
by werner on Mon Jul 10, 2006 at 07:04:57 PM EST

Nowhere near as efficient as my bike.

I get over 100 miles per gallon of milk. Takes me about 6 months to do 3000 miles, mind.



i used to have (none / 1) (#61)
by wampswillion on Mon Jul 17, 2006 at 07:16:36 PM EST

an audi.  an audi fox.  
that's probably not the same tho huh?
for what it's worth, i LOVED that car. perhaps the best car i ever had.  

Diesel Wins at Le Mans | 63 comments (43 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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