Audi Comes To The Dakar Rally Next Year, Unveils RS Q e-tron
Fun fact: the combustion engine they have here comes from a DTM car
By sacrificing their Formula E campaign to the motoring gods, Audi is entering a new arena for the first time. This is their RS Q e-tron Dakar Rally racer, a hybrid off-roader with maybe the biggest airbox I've seen this side of the 1975 F1 season.
Audi has never actually been in the Dakar before, even with their pioneering Quattro AWD proving to be titanic in Group B rallying, but the new car is taking just about every lesson learned from Audi's other forays in racing to this machine. For one, it's got a DTM-grade engine.
That's right: inside that machine is the same 2.-litre turbo-four engine used by the last RS5 DTM that Audi ran before quitting last year. This acts as a generator and range extender for the Formula E-sourced 50kWh battery package and two electric motors that act as the prime drivetrain (the DTM engine isn't what's driving the car -- it's connected to a third MGU). Combined, the entire setup makes 617hp, pending nerfs as mandated by organisers.
Quite a lot, then, but it's within reason: without any charging points anywhere on the long (800km is more than what most EVs can boast), expansive and arid stages the Dakar Rally is set in, the three cars Audi will enter will surely experience range anxiety, so the combustion engine is there to keep the juice box full without needing to recharge midway.
Steve Quandt, team principal for the newly-minted Q Motorsport arm, even likens this campaign to the moon landing: “Back then, the engineers didn’t really know what was coming. It’s similar with us. If we finish the first Dakar event, that’s already a success.”
He calls the RS Q e-tron "one of the most complex cars" that he's ever seen, which will pose immense challenges when it comes to maintaining reliability.
“What we are trying to do has never been done before," says Dakar project leader Andreas Roos. "This is the ultimate challenge for an electric drivetrain.” Considering they came up with this from scratch and worked on it over 12 months during The Worst Year, it's almost a miracle that we even see hardware.
Will they succeed? Hard to say -- after all, they're still testing this machine and Dakar is still six months away. But that may be time enough to mount an attack. After all, even just finishing that race is a feat in itself.