In a landmark event in motorsport history, Audi triumphed at the world-renowned Dakar Rally with its revolutionary Audi RS Q e-tron, an avant-garde prototype powered by an electric drive, an innovative high-voltage battery, and an efficient energy converter. This remarkable achievement marked the first time a low-emission vehicle has conquered the grueling challenges of the planet’s most demanding desert rally.
Piloted by the illustrious Spanish duo, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, the Audi team clinched victory after an arduous journey spanning approximately 7,900 kilometers, finishing with a commanding lead of one hour and twenty minutes. Their teammates, Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist, also showcased their prowess, successfully completing the intense race.
Gernot Döllner, the Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi AG, lauded the Audi Sport team for this historic accomplishment. He highlighted how Audi, with its cutting-edge technology and commitment to innovation, has reached a pivotal milestone in motorsport.
The RS Q e-tron’s triumph at the Dakar Rally is a testament to Audi‘s “Vorsprung durch Technik,” signifying a giant leap towards a sustainable and electric future. The vehicle, equipped with electric all-wheel drive, ensures an efficient energy supply through its high-voltage battery and an energy converter fueled by eco-friendly reFuel, reducing CO2 emissions by 60% compared to traditional fuels.
Oliver Hoffmann, a Member of the Board of Management of Audi AG overseeing Technical Development, expressed his pride in the team’s accomplishment. He noted that the innovative electrified drive system overcame some of the most formidable challenges in motorsport within a mere three years.
This success is a continuation of Audi’s legacy of pioneering achievements spanning four decades. Hoffmann extended his gratitude to the entire team for their exceptional performance, especially considering the demanding conditions of this particular edition of the Dakar Rally. The competition was fierce, with formidable opponents such as Toyota, Ford, and the seasoned competitors from Prodrive.
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The Strategic Journey to Victory
The journey to victory was a strategic masterpiece, with Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz maintaining an uninterrupted lead from the sixth stage onwards. This victory is their fourth triumph in the Dakar Rally, marking their success with different brands and their second victory under the Volkswagen Group.
However, the win was not assured until the final moments, as strong contenders Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin from Team BRX closely pursued them, narrowing the gap until a critical setback on the penultimate day.
Rolf Michl, the Head of Audi Motorsport, praised the collective effort that led to this historic achievement. He acknowledged the exemplary teamwork that made this milestone possible for Audi, penning a new chapter in the history of the Dakar Rally.
The rally was an arduous test of endurance and skill, featuring daily stages exceeding 400 kilometers, limited service marathon stages, and a total of 4,600 timed kilometers over a distance of 7,883 kilometers. The terrain was unforgiving, with treacherous scree, gravel roads, and daunting dunes in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, coupled with challenging navigation requirements.
Sainz, a veteran rally driver with four decades of experience, led for eight days alongside Lucas Cruz in the twelve-stage rally. Their performance was exemplary, showcasing resilience and unparalleled skill. The other Audi teams also demonstrated commendable performances, with the Swedish team of Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist initially securing second place before encountering a setback.
Stéphane Peterhansel, a legend with 14 Dakar victories, along with his teammate Edouard Boulanger, also faced challenges but contributed significantly to the team’s overall strategy.
Carlos Sainz (#204), 2024 Dakar Winner: “I am very happy for Audi, the many fans of the brand and my fellow countrymen. This victory means a lot to me. It’s my fourth victory with the fourth different brand. The team has developed a very special concept with which we are the first in the Dakar Rally. Only Audi was brave enough to take this risk. I’m happy that we’ve made history with it. And in one of the toughest editions of this rally that I have experienced. My family is here, as is the whole Audi family.”
The strategic acumen of Rolf Michl, Head of Audi Motorsport, and Sven Quandt, Team Principal of the entry partner Q Motorsport, was instrumental in orchestrating a flawless campaign in this demanding edition of the rally.
Their tactics, such as strategically positioning themselves before the second marathon stage and supporting the leading team of Sainz and Cruz, were pivotal. The dedication and tireless efforts of the team personnel were equally crucial in navigating the physically demanding, long, and arduous rally, culminating in Ekström and Bergkvist finishing among the top 50.
Audi’s Legacy and the Future of Motorsport
Audi Sport has meticulously developed the highly efficient RS Q e-tron, demonstrating its capability to secure victory within just three years. Under the technical leadership of Dr. Leonardo Pascali, Audi Sport has achieved another historic milestone with its innovative drive system. This success is a continuation of Audi’s legacy of transforming motorsport, a journey that began with the revolutionary quattro all-wheel drive in the 1980s.
Since then, Audi has accumulated a plethora of victories and titles, showcasing its innovative prowess at events like Le Mans. Technologies such as the efficient TFSI drive, electrified e-tron quattro all-wheel drive, LED matrix light, and Audi laser light exemplify Audi’s commitment to innovation and its mantra of “Vorsprung durch Technik.”
The introduction of Audi’s first all-electric racing car in Formula E marked a significant chapter in the brand’s history. Now, with the Dakar Rally victory, Audi has once again demonstrated its innovative strength by becoming the first manufacturer to conquer the extreme challenges of the rally with an electric drive.
This triumph is not just a testament to Audi’s technological prowess but also a beacon, illuminating the path toward a sustainable and electrified future in motorsport.
The Audi RS Q e-tron: How it Works
Audi made a significant entry into the Dakar Rally with their innovative electric vehicle, the Audi RS Q e-tron. This vehicle is unique and marks a significant departure from the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles typically seen in the rally. Here’s how the Audi electric vehicles used in the Dakar work:
1. Drivetrain and Energy Conversion:
Electric Motors: The Audi RS Q e-tron does not directly drive its wheels with a conventional ICE. Instead, it uses a series of electric motors. There are two electric motors from Audi’s Formula E program, one on each axle, providing the car with all-wheel drive.
Energy Converter: Instead of a large battery pack to store energy, the RS Q e-tron uses an energy converter consisting of a TFSI engine from the DTM program, which acts as a generator to charge the car’s high-voltage battery while driving.
The car carries a relatively small battery pack compared to standard electric road cars. The battery is designed for fast charging and is meant to be charged while driving through the energy converter system.
The vehicle utilizes regenerative braking, a standard feature in electric vehicles, which allows it to recover energy during decelerations and braking, further improving its efficiency.
4. Weight and Efficiency:
The vehicle is built to be lightweight, yet robust enough to handle the rigorous conditions of the Dakar Rally. Despite the additional weight from the energy converter system, the car’s efficiency and the strategic deployment of power make it competitive.
5. Software and Electronics:
Sophisticated software and electronics manage the distribution of power between the motors, the battery, and the energy converter. This ensures optimal performance, managing the balance between speed, power, and energy conservation across different terrains and stages of the rally.
6. Cooling Systems:
Cooling systems are crucial due to the harsh conditions of the Dakar Rally and the heat generated by the electric motors and battery. The RS Q e-tron is equipped with advanced cooling systems to maintain optimal operating temperatures.
The Audi RS Q e-tron is a testament to Audi’s commitment to innovation in electric mobility, proving that EVs can compete in one of the most demanding motorsport events in the world. The technology demonstrates a novel approach to EV design, especially in the context of range and energy management, which could have broader implications for electric vehicles beyond motorsports.