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Dakar Rally: Audi entry just the beginning

Audi entry is just the beginning

Audi will be involved in the Dakar Rally from 2022. But that should only be the beginning. Jutta Kleinschmidt sets the course for desert rally sport.

D.he Dakar Rally is no longer as popular as it was 20 years ago, when Jutta Kleinschmidt is still the only woman and the only German to win the Dakar Rally car classification. But the future looks promising nonetheless – thanks in part to Kleinschmidt’s work as FIA commissioner for cross-country sport.

The best news was Audi’s entry in 2022. “That will certainly help us,” says Kleinschmidt. “There are also other manufacturers who are interested in the new class for alternative drives, but of course I can’t name any.”

Audi relies on experienced partners

Audi will develop its Dakar car in collaboration with Q Motorsport. Behind it is Sven Quandt, a former rally driver who also developed the Minis with his X-Raid team. Carlos Sainz won the Dakar Rally for X-Raid Mini 2020. Both projects will continue in parallel. Mini will continue to lay four-wheel drive vehicles and buggies, Q Motorsport will use the Audis.
The technical details have not yet been determined. One thing is clear: Audi has announced a hybrid engine, the drive should be purely electric, only the power supply comes from a battery and an internal combustion engine. Kleinschmidt: “The Dakar Rally partly reflects what we also experience on the road – that you can’t charge everywhere, for example. If we show that it is possible to drive long distances through the desert, then that will also be accepted more and more in road traffic. “

Ekström as a driver is likely

A separate new set of regulations will be created for new environmentally friendly technologies, such as the Audi project. The Audi will also appear in the overall standings, but an extra sub-class is planned for innovative drive types. “We also want to give these technologies some time to get to the level of the others. But the goal is for them to be able to compete for overall victory in the medium term, hopefully by 2026, ”explains Kleinschmidt.

A competitor has already been identified: a team led by Cyril Depres, who has won the Dakar Rally five times with the motorcycle, is developing a hydrogen car for the 2023 edition.
It is still unclear who will be behind the wheel at Audi. Mattias Ekström is a hot candidate. The Swede was a crowd puller at Audi in the DTM, won the title twice, was also rallycross world champion and is now trying his hand at off-road racing. For the Abt-Cupra-Team he will take part in the Extreme E in 2021. He will also compete in the Dakar Rally in 2021 – in a side-by-side from Yamaha. These small prototypes were an affair of the heart for Kleinschmidt – in order to have affordable entry-level cars. The engines have a displacement of just one liter and 177 hp. The Yamaha side-by-side is also designed by X-Raid.
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