Audi RS Q e-tron's Cockpit Looks Overwhelming

Motorsport / Comments

Here's what Audi's Dakar drivers will look at for 14 days over 5,000 miles.

There are literally millions of things than can happen to a Dakar vehicle or driver (or co-driver) across the 5,000 miles of harsh desert terrain that the race inhabits this year. Luckily Audi and its RS Q e-tron rally vehicle (a wild play on the Audi RS Q8) have a button, lever or screen for every one of them. If looking at this picture of its cockpit doesn't stress you out, you're either a professional race car driver or have Superman-like nerves of steel.

The 2022 Dakar takes place in Saudi Arabia, home of the recent and insane penultimate F1 race, and it both starts and ends in Jeddah. It goes northeast to Ha'il, back down to Riyadh for a few days and finally back to Jeddah. This will be the series' third outing in the country after it was moved from the Dakar region in 2009 following fears of a terrorist attack. Make that a million and one possible problems.

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Audi

The cockpit is frankly insane. Audi notes that things used to be easier. The driver drove and the co-driver navigated, but now there's a lot more to do. However, one thing drivers Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz won't have to do is shift, as the electric drive doesn't require a manual. It does have a double-cranked, comically tall aluminum handbrake -- they're not just for Vaughn Gittin Jr. anymore -- using a brake-by-wire system, which is necessary on the route. Not only will it induce a slide, but it also recoups some energy.

The eight buttons on the steering wheel control things like the horn and wipers, but also data entry, if the driver wants to note something weird on the course. One of them is also the speed limiter, for the sections of the course that are on public roads or otherwise restricted. Behind the wheel is a driver information screen, but instead of the radio station is shows tire pressure, direction of travel and speed. That screen, as well as the two up closer to the windshield are also to let the driver know of any system problems or battery issues.

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Audi
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Just as important, the central display as well watches tire pressures, brake balance, brake-by-wire and other features. Like the driver screen, this also shows errors in red, and then green when everything is working properly. The switch panel underneath features another 24 buttons, which can be mapped any way the driver likes. There's also a page function. If the competitors want a certain 24 adjustments for one section but different ones for another, they can do that. It's operated by the co-driver.

Those are all big changes, but the biggest is probably the deletion of the paper route book. Previously teams got this information the night before. Now they get it 15 minutes before the start of each stage in the morning. As expected, all of the information is on two tablets. The left tablet shows the way forward. The right one does the GPS and validates the checkpoint. There is a paper route book included, but it's only to be used if the left tablet fails. Otherwise they'd face a penalty. And this isn't a turn-by-turn situation, it only provides compass directions, distances, pictograms and special warnings.

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Audi
Audi

The last new feature is the Iritrack system. It's used for emergencies where the organizer can see the speed, position and detect accidents of competitors. The drivers can inform the organizers directly if passengers do or do not need medical assistance. That piece of kit will go in every car, including the graffiti-sprayed Safari 911 we saw last month from Sabelt.

The 2022 Dakar Rally starts on January 1 and runs until the 14th. You can watch it online, on your Roku or Fire TV and on Apple TV. You can also download the FloSports app on iOS or Android.

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