Dakar: First endurance test for the Audi RS Q e-tron E2

From the remnants of two discarded projects, Audi has developed its most innovative car to date – the racing car for the Dakar Rally. A 2-liter four-cylinder turbo engine from the DTM charges the batteries for the two Formula E engines (system output 329 hp) that drive the Dakar racer.
He is to be sent into the desert for the second time in 2023. The drive concept also remains untouched in the further developed Audi RS Q e-tron E2. Only the body has been completely revised by Audi: it tapers towards the front and rear and thus resembles the hull of a boat. Result: 15 percent less air resistance. “The improved air flow should further reduce the energy requirement of the electrically powered car,” says designer Axel Löffler. That means less fuel for the combustion engine because the batteries don’t have to provide as much juice for the electric motor. The top speed is capped at 170 km/h.

Saving weight was the main goal of Audi’s new desert lightning. Because the predecessor weighed 200 kilograms too much. “Nevertheless, they are faster than our cars,” complained ex-Formula 1 team boss Dave Richards (70) in January 2022. His Prodrive team uses their own cars (BRX Hunter), including for record world rally champion Sébastien Loeb (48 ). “The FIA ​​has to do something, otherwise Audi will destroy the sport because they dominate everything.”

Saving weight was the main goal of Audi’s new desert lightning.

The new expansion stage will make the competition tremble even more. At the premiere in 2022, Audi didn’t get past ninth place overall thanks to Mattias Ekström (44), but that was due to technical teething problems. The speed was always there – as four victories, 14 podium places and above all the opinion of Dakar record winner Stéphane Peterhansel (57) prove: “I’ve never driven such a good car in the dunes. It suits my driving style perfectly.”

Audi has incorporated the experience of almost 24,000 Dakar kilometers into the new vehicle. And now for the first time extensively tested in Morocco.

“Not only the weight, but also its distribution is now more favorable,” reports Carlos Sainz. “As a result, the car drifts less, it feels more agile and it is easier to control.” An impression that Stéphane Peterhansel confirms: “When we drive through long, fast corners, there are fewer centrifugal forces. So it’s a lot easier to stay on the inside of the curve. Our seating position is also better than before.”

Mattias Ekström, who is still a newcomer to off-road rallying after a successful career on the circuit and in rallycross, emphasises: “Carlos and Stéphane’s experiences are a huge help when it comes to set-up. It’s not about lap times like on asphalt circuits, but about having a predictable car. In addition to the lower weight, the improved aerodynamics are also clearly noticeable. It has a positive effect, especially at higher speeds.”

In total, Audi Sport covered 4,218 kilometers in Morocco. Together with the previous test drives in Europe, this already results in a total distance of 6,424 kilometers for the Audi RS Q e-tron E2. However, the team does not have time for a break: from October 1st to 6th, the second stage of construction of the rally prototype will undergo its baptism of fire. Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist, Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz will then contest the Morocco Rally in the southwest of the country. With its diverse terrain, it is considered the ideal event to prepare for the Dakar Rally.

Then, but no later than 2024, Ford is also planning a factory project. A Ford Ranger pick-up is currently being developed in South Africa and will be used by long-standing Ford World Rally Championship team M-Sport. The engine is a revised 402 hp 3.6-litre twin-turbo from the old Ford GTE Le Mans. The desert is alive.

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