New Electric Audi Will Tackle The Dakar Rally

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Perhaps it will spawn a road version?

With models like the Quattro, Audi was once a dominant force in rally racing. The brand cemented its dominance in the 1980s with multiple World Rally Championships and now, Audi wants to make a return to off-road motorsport with a new model. Unlike the five-cylinder-powered Quattro, this one will be powered by electric motors, but it won't be all-electric like the 2021 Audi Q4 e-tron.

Audi will compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally for the first time with an innovative prototype. The prototype (teased below) will feature an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery mated with an energy converter to extend the range. That energy converter is one of Audi's TFSI engines, though the company did not specify which one. At the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show, Audi unveiled the AI:Trail quattro off-roader, which this new model could be based off.

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Since the Dakar Rally takes place over many days and covers 9,300 miles, there is no way that a purely electric car would be able to compete. Hence why Audi will enter with an alternative drive concept to improve electric drivetrain performance and batteries for years to come. Audi hopes it will gain experience from the race that will eventually help with the development of future production models.

This is the first time that an automaker will enter the Dakar with an alternative drive concept, though it is not Audi's first time innovating in motorsport. The Audi R18 e-tron Quattro was the first hybrid racing car to win the Le Mans 24 Hours. The teaser image is covered with a tarp, but we can tell this prototype won't look like any current production Audi. It looks like a lifted supercar sitting on massive tires mixed with a bit of e-tron DNA.

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"Today, electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present," says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management and Board of Management Member for Technical Development and Product Lines. "This is why we are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions. The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect."

"In addition, we are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport," says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH. "In doing so, we have our customers' wishes in mind as much as the company's future strategy, which is clearly focused on electrification and carbon-neutral mobility. This is why we are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours. The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi."

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