August 2021: testing begins in earnest
The Audi RS Q e-tron heads to Spain for its first major off-road test: an eight-day endurance run, covering more than 1,700km on 17km-long rough gravel roads near the Spanish city of Zaragoza. With temperatures of up to 34C in the shade, this is a crucial yardstick for the cooling of the powertrain’s electrical components.
“Being able to call on the battery’s maximum performance is all about optimum temperature management,” explains Andreas. “This is what we’re learning with every test, and that’s exactly why we are going to the desert with an electrified drivetrain. Each component requires a dedicated cooling system. That means we have six – including the intercooler and the air conditioning for the driver and co-driver. We’re gaining an incredible amount of experience that we’re sharing with our colleagues from the e-tron road car development team.”
All three of Audi’s driving teams are present, but Carlos Sainz best sums up the mood. “For my first drive in proper conditions I’m really happy with how the car behaves already,” he says. “I had a really good feeling straight away. Of course, there’s fine-tuning to be done. But the starting point is good.”
September 2021: taking to the sand in Morocco
Audi’s Dakar Rally team head to the dunes of Morocco, where temperatures climb over 40C and sandstorms add to the challenge of the desert landscape. “We actually expect much lower temperatures at the Dakar Rally,” says Andreas Roos. “But we deliberately went to Morocco to test under the most extreme conditions. Components such as the MGU weren’t developed for use in such high ambient temperatures, while the drivetrain and other elements were also pushed to their limits by the heat.
“We also made modifications so the driver and co-driver have more space in the tight cockpit and can communicate better with each other. This was one of the many topics we had on our to-do list after the test in Zaragoza. The insights we gained in Morocco are invaluable, but they also show us that we still have a lot to do before the Dakar Rally, and there is not much time left.”