Audi powers on in gruelling Dakar Rally 2022

At the halfway point in the world’s toughest rally, Audi has six podium finishes in the daily results, reliably working electric drive systems, and is showcasing its racing e-mobility efforts in full competitive mode on debut.

This year’s Dakar Rally got off to a great start for Audi Sport GmbH, with the RS Q e-tron claiming first stage victory on the 338km special stage from Al Artawiya to Al Qaisumah in the Saudi Arabian desert.

There have also been plenty of challenges for the Audi drivers during the first half of the race, however. These include driver Stéphane Peterhansel suffering suspension damage, resulting in missed checkpoints which earned Audi a 16-hour penalty and robbed the team of the chance of a podium finish.

As the world’s toughest rally, the legendary Dakar, reached the halfway point ‘rest day’ earlier this week, Oliver Hoffmann, Audi Board Member for Technical Development said that what he had seen from the team was very impressive, irrespective of setbacks.

“Our team has developed the Audi RS Q e-tron in record time. Right off the bat, we are strong on a sporting level. Our drivers, co-drivers and the entire team are showing a great team performance. And our advanced technology fulfils the expectations placed in it,” he said.

Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz caused great excitement and high media attention as early as on the fourth day of the competition: the three-time Dakar winners managed the Audi RS Q e-tron’s first stage victory on the 338km special stage from Al Artawiya to Al Qaisumah in the Saudi Arabian desert.

In the process, the two Spaniards achieved an average of 138km/h – an impressive figure on unpaved tracks. The entire Team Audi Sport received the two stage winners with jubilation in the bivouac afterwards.

Audi’s interim tally after seven days includes one first, two second and three third places in the stage results. In addition to Sainz/Cruz, fourteen-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel with his co-driver Edouard Boulanger as well as Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist, who are contesting only their second Dakar Rally, have contributed to this track record.

“The spirit that prevails in the team makes me proud,” said Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi.

“The cohesion throughout the first half of the rally shows how quickly this young team has grown into a unit. Even the preparation phase was extremely intensive in order to be ‘race ready’ at the start.

“From the white sheet of paper to the desert we only had one year of development time for the most complex vehicle in Audi Motorsport history. For me, the cohesion in the team is crucial for the successes already achieved, which exceed what newcomers can expect at their first Dakar.”

The complexity of the three Audi RS Q e-tron prototypes rally cars are extremely high. For the first time, the alternative drive concept combines an electric powertrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter.

Despite a very short test phase, the systems of all three cars run without complaint in the tough everyday desert conditions.

And despite all the successes, Audi also had to face Dakar-specific challenges on almost 4,700km as well.

In addition to difficulties with navigation on the second day, suspension damage robbed the team of all chances. Stéphane Peterhansel damaged a rim and the lower wishbone of the rear left suspension on a stone on the second day, resulting in consequential damage. The Frenchman had to wait for the race truck for the repair and the subsequent direct drive to the bivouac (which is usual in such cases), and the checkpoints missed as a result additionally earned the team 16 penalty hours.

While the team is already incorporating improvements in many areas of the car on site, Stefan Dreyer, Head of Development Audi Sport racing, has a list of medium- and longer-term optimisation points that is filling up with each day of the rally.

“We were surprised that the only obstacles so far have been in conventional areas like the suspension,” he said. “It’s impressive that our innovative and highly stressed drive concept has worked flawlessly so far, and that the vehicle’s performance is right as well.

“At the same time, we know that the rally still has a long way to go. Our goal remains to arrive in Jeddah in a week’s time with all three cars.”

After more than 8,000km, the participants will eventually reach the rally’s destination in the port city on the Red Sea on January 14. Currently, Mattias Ekström as the best Audi driver is in 14th place overall. Carlos Sainz is 25th and Stéphane Peterhansel is 71st.

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