The Audi Team Sport will be back to prove EVs can fight for top spots in rallies too.
Audi has announced its return to the 2024 Dakar Rally season with an improved RS Q e-tron - a result of a disappointing 2023 season for the German automaker. After analyzing the EV off-roader's weak points, Audi Team Sport has revealed the improvements to make the racer more competitive for next year's contest.
The previous season saw two of the three RS Q e-tron entries retire, with Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel winning the season in their Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux. However, the team is still optimistic about the situation, stating the retirements were caused by accidents and not necessarily technical issues.
Led by new technical director Dr. Leonardo Pascali, the team developed the new Audi RS Q e-tron to become safer, more reliable, and more comfortable for the same driver lineup as this year: Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergkvist, Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger, and Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz.
After driver Carlos Sainz flipped his rally car on Stage 9, Audi wants to prevent such an incident again by reducing the peak vertical acceleration. The chassis' springs, dampers, and bump stop have been tweaked to distribute the load better over time. The front fascia also gets a longer carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) crash box to absorb energy more efficiently.
The development engineers have also focused on optimizing the seats for better load distribution, even considering how temperatures affect the stiffness of the foam.
Audi installed new fastening elements to allow greater clearance during runs. This would throw out stones more easily, preventing damage and time-consuming wheel changes. Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergkvist, who finished 14th in the 2023 season, crossed the line six hours and 51 minutes behind the Al-Attiyah.
The new fastening elements are complemented by more robust rims with stronger sidewalls. However, this update meant the EV increased weight. To keep the entry within regulations, the team optimized the weight of the rear hood and footrest of the co-driver and reduced the brake caliper size.
Other improvements include optimized acoustic shielding, bolstered seals for the cockpit, and a modified front hood to repel mud and water more efficiently. The repair tools have also been improved to produce shorter maintenance times.
The 2024 season will increase maximum output from 363 horsepower to 384 hp and weight to 2,010 kg (4,431 lbs), a 22-lb bump. The RS Q e-tron will again try to prove electric powertrains can go alongside combustion rally cars. Hopefully, the team could get more valuable data for improving the brand's EV models, such as the e-tron GT.
"Our engineering team has improved the RS Q e-tron even further with many creative solutions," says Rolf Michl, Head of Motorsport at Audi. "Drivers and co-drivers, as well as all of the mechanics and engineers, benefit from the imaginative ideas. We feel that we are prepared for the Dakar Rally in the best possible way."
The 2024 Dakar Rally will commence on January 5 in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. The Audi Team Sport is entering the competition with six stage victories and 22 other single-day podium results at the Dakar Rally since 2022.