Dakar: Audi between triumph and drama

Certainly, an Audi victory in the Dakar Rally would have been a sensation anyway. The new Audi RS Q e-tron is not yet fully developed, the technology more complex than ever before in a vehicle that tackled the desert classic. Discarded DTM motors provide the power for the electric machines, which are the actual drive.
Sounds complicated, but it works. Carlos Sainz clinched the first victory for Audi on the third stage. It was the 40th stage victory of the father of Ferrari Formula 1 star Carlos Sainz junior in the desert rally. “I’m happy with the car. We drive very quickly and get to know the car better, ”says the Spaniard.

Nevertheless, Audi no longer has a chance of overall victory. Not since the first stage. Dakar record winner Stéphane Peterhansel lost over 23 hours to the top – among other things, because a rear wheel tore off. So the rally was actually over. But the 56-year-old continues to drive – important test kilometers for Audi.

Ekström the best Audi driver

The best Audi driver is currently Mattias Ekström, who is one hour and 53 minutes behind in 19th place. For the ex-DTM champion, it’s only the second Dakar and the first in the car class. So he’s the most inexperienced and slowest driver in the Audi line-up.

The best Audi driver is currently Mattias Ekström, who is one hour and 53 minutes behind in 19th place.

Sainz himself is currently in 26th place in the ranking. He’s already two hours and 19 minutes behind. He caught most of it through a navigation error on day one. Various drivers made a wrong turn at kilometer 257. Apparently the organizers’ road book was incorrect. But Audi does not protest.

The favorite to win is Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has already won the Dakar Rally three times. The Toyota driver can no longer afford to violate the regulations. Because the FIA ​​data logger was not infected, his team had to pay 5000 euros. Another offense threatens disqualification.

Toyota is favorite

Toyota is the leading manufacturer in the current edition. Four of the five best drivers drive a Toyota. Only Sébastien Loeb can keep up with the Hunter from Prodrive in second place – but is already 37 minutes behind. Among other things, he was thrown back by two punctures.

Toyota is the leading manufacturer in the current edition.

Al-Attiyah still keeps the tension high: “I think Seb and I will have a tough fight until the end.”

And German drivers? They are only among the others. Daniel Schröder and Markus Walcher are each at the start with a Nissan and, as expected, are 37th and 49th in the middle of the field. 87 cars are still in the race.

German drivers in midfield

Among the co-drivers, Timo Gottschalk is currently the best German in ninth place. He navigates Jakub Przygonski, who drives a mini buggy – last year with Sainz at the wheel, it was still the victorious car. But the buggies have lost their advantages because all-wheel drive drivers are allowed to use larger tires and longer suspension travel. This means that the buggies lose many advantages over all-wheel drive vehicles.
Two women are also fighting their way through the desert of Saudi Arabia. Laia Sanz is on the road with a Mini and is currently in 28th place. She has already been on a motorcycle in the desert classic since 2011, now in a car for the first time. After the Spaniard competed in the Extreme E in Carlos Sainz’s team in 2021. Paraguayan Andreas Lafarja is currently in 57th place.
In the side-by-side category, in which small buggies with a displacement of less than one liter and less than 200 hp are used, Joan Lascorz dominates the headlines – even if he only has 12 overall. Is. The Spaniard has been paraplegic since a fall in the 2012 Superbike World Championship in Imola and is still fighting his way through the desert with a converted Maverick buggy.

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