A driver line-up that endures
The final crucial element of any potentially race-winning package is the driver. In its Dakar Rally line-up, Audi boasts three of the best. Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel is known as ‘Mr Dakar’, thanks to his six wins on a motorcycle and eight wins in a car. Carlos Sainz is a three-times World Rally Champion, who has since added three Dakar wins to his tally. Finally, there’s former DTM touring car champion and World Rallycross ace Mattias Ekstrom, an Audi veteran.
“In the end, the drivers and co-drivers make the difference in the Dakar Rally,” says Andreas Roos. “The fact that we’ll have three teams of drivers and co-drivers competing at the very highest level is reassuring.”
Equally, endurance as just as important as speed for surviving – and ultimately winning – the Dakar Rally. Over the last five months, the Audi RS Q e-tron has undergone a comprehensive and gruelling testing schedule across rocky and desert roads in Spain and Morocco. “With everything you develop, you have to think: ‘Will this last? Will this be possible?’,” says Andreas. “In the past, our Le Mans prototypes had to last 24 hours. Now we need a car which has to last 14 days in the desert.”
As Q Motorsport team principal (and Dakar Rally veteran) Sven Quandt points out, Audi’s bid to take the first electrified win in the Dakar Rally’s history is not unlike the challenge of the 1969 Moon landings. “Back then, the engineers didn’t know what was coming or what to expect,” he jokes. “It’s the same for us today.
“Audi has always chosen new bold paths in racing, but I think this is one of the most complex cars I’ve ever seen. The Dakar is one of the last great unique adventures in the world, and you can learn a lot from it – especially if you choose an innovative path like Audi with its electric drivetrain.
“You have all the things that matter – different terrains, tough conditions, high and low temperatures, rain, sun and many kilometres driven per day. If your technology can survive the Dakar Rally, it will be successful everywhere.”