Prepare for a new chapter: From January 1 to 14, 2022, the new Audi RS Q e-tron will compete in its maiden Dakar Rally. This signals the start of a new age in cross-country rallying for Audi, the creator of quattro, TFSI, ultra, e-tron, and many more future technologies in racing.
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Audi uses EV power in the most difficult motorsport competition
Audi will face 91 other competitors in the vehicle class on the twelve legs of the desert rally in Saudi Arabia. Motorcycles, quads, lightweight vehicles, and trucks are among the five vehicle categories.
“The Dakar Rally is the biggest conceivable challenge for our innovative electric drive with high-voltage battery and high-efficiency energy converter,” says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. “Never before have we brought such a complex vehicle to the start at Audi Sport in such a short time. Our first endurance test under competitive conditions is now the world’s longest and most demanding rally. We approach the Dakar Rally with great respect and are fully focused on this challenge.”
Building on decades of competition history
Cross-country rallying is already the ninth racing category in Audi Sport’s history. From 1981, the company has competed in WRC, Trans-Am, IMSA GTO, DTM, STW, TCR, prototype racing (LMP), GT racing (GT3, GT2, GT4), rallycross (WRX), and single-seater racing (Formula E).
On board the three Audi RS Q e-trons are cutting-edge technology and three of the best driver-co-driver pairings in the world. After being the first German brand to win the team championship in Formula E in 2017/2018 and the first manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an electrified drive in 2012, Audi now sets its sights on the desert.
Audi intends to show that an electric engine can be extremely efficient and competitive in the Dakar Rally’s T1 Ultimate class.
The EV powertrain poses some challenges
A very complicated control system starts when the rally drivers depart the bivouac in electric drive on the morning of each stage with a charged high-voltage battery.
When the roadbooks are given out a few minutes before the start of the stage, the teams learn very little about the course. With its revolutionary propulsion, the Audi RS Q e-tron must constantly be prepared for all situations in terms of distances, speeds, topographical difficulties, and other considerations.
Engineers and electrical professionals created algorithms to maintain the State of Charge (SoC), or charge level, within predetermined limits based on energy consumption. Over predetermined distances, energy extraction and battery recharge are always in balance.
The condition of charge declines within a predetermined range if, for example, a difficult dune crossing with high driving resistance necessitates maximal energy for a short period. The reason is that the laws restrict the total driving power of the engine-generator units on the front and rear axles to 288 kW.
The energy converter, on the other hand, can only produce 220 kW of charging power. As a result, in extreme instances, consumption exceeds energy output for a limited period of time.
A world-class team for the Audi RS
Three very skilled driver teams give it their all: Mattias Ekström’s adaptability is impressive. The highlights of his nearly 30-year international racing career include two DTM crowns and a World Rallycross Championship triumph. Emil Bergkvist, the co-driver, is a fellow Swede who was a junior world rally champion before transitioning to co-driver.
Stéphane Peterhansel, a 14-time winner of the Dakar Rally, is the current all-time leader of the competition. In his most recent accomplishment, Edouard Boulanger, a French compatriot, and co-driver guided him his way in 2021.
Carlos Sainz, a Spaniard, has won the Dakar Rally three times and has more than two decades of expertise in sprint rallies, including two World Rally Championships. For all three Dakar triumphs, his colleague Lucas Cruz sat in the co-pilot position.
Team Audi Sport is the umbrella under which all three Audi RS Q e-tron vehicles are entered. Q Motorsport is a supporter of the brand. Sven Quandt’s squad from Trebur, Hesse, Germany, has almost a quarter-century of cross-country rallying expertise, including six Dakar triumphs.
A total of 80 Audi and Q Motorsport employees will travel across Saudi Arabia for two weeks, including rally drivers, technical and logistics personnel, as well as the team doctor and physiotherapists. The calendar for 2022 contains twelve stages, some of which cover more than 800 kilometers per day.
The rally’s entire distance is 8,099 kilometers, including 4,252 kilometers of timed off-road stages. The competition begins on New Year’s Day and finishes on January 14 in Jeddah. The rally will stop in Riyadh on January 8 for a rest day.