After some serious testing, Audi is ready to tackle Dakar.
Dakar is an absolutely brutal event. Just the temperatures alone are enough to make someone feel a little unwelcome in the Saudi Arabian desert (where the rally has been held since 2020). Despite that, teams continue to participate in the world-famous rally every year. This fourth edition of the Dakar in Saudia Arabia will start on December 31, and Audi plans to field teams with its brand new Audi RS Q e-tron E2, not to be confused with the Audi RS e-tron GT.
We're aware Audi needs to work on its naming structures, but instead the brand is spending time working on making this new hybrid electric desert runner the most reliable one yet, having just finished days of testing in the brutal Moroccan desert.
Audi sent its full complement of drivers out to test, some six drivers spread across three teams, one of which was fielded by Carlos Sainz, WRC champ and father of Carlos Sainz Jr., F1 driver. "Our plan was to have nine days of testing so that each driver/co-driver pairing could work with the test vehicle for three days," said Arnau Niubo Bosch, Audi's Project Leader of Track Operations.
"There were two main objectives: to develop the second evolution for the Dakar Rally and to familiarize the driver teams with the new developments. The weight reduction creates new opportunities for suspension set-up, which we want to exploit. We are moving in a good direction. The electric drive with all its systems is also working more smoothly than at the test a year ago."
Audi recently dramatically dropped the weight of its Dakar entrant. The truck's bodywork pulled much of the weight in that department. On top of that, Audi dropped some double carbon fiber surfaces from last year's truck.
In Morocco, Uwe Breuling, Head of Vehicle Operations at Audi Sport, spoke about the brutal conditions present. "At almost 40 degrees Celsius (104F), the temperatures are extreme and push the car, but also the crews, to their limits," he reports. "Likewise, the test tracks are very brittle this year, which visibly puts an enormous strain on the technology. But there's nothing that will stop the car, just minor damage that we need to repair."
At least according to Audi's drivers, its new lightweight formula is paying dividends. "Not only the weight, but also its distribution is more favorable now," said Carlos Sainz. "As a result, the car drifts less, it feels more agile and it's easier to control."
Other drivers on the team had similar feedback, saying the car felt more predictable, which was the goal. You don't want a fast car at Dakar, you want a reliable, predictable one that'll outlast the competition. In all, Audi covered 2,620 miles. With any luck, that was enough to get out the bugs, as the teams will compete in the Morocco Rally starting on October 2.