If there is something to remember about Team Audi Sport in 2023 Dakar Rally it has to be innovation & performance. The Audi RS Q e-tron scored 14 podiums in the 15-day event. However, a series of punctures, the accident-related retirements of Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz and Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger as well as a massive loss of time for Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist prevented a better result than 14th place.
Oliver Hoffmann, Board Member for Technical Development at Audi, recognized many achievements: “The pace of our innovative Audi RS Q e-tron was good right from the start and showed at the end. Unfortunately, we also had bad luck in the desert and many punctures. Despite the setbacks, the team celebrated a finish thanks to strong performances. We will now analyze all areas. A podium was our goal. It remains so because we will definitely compete again in 2024.”
Audi Sport suffered setbacks at multiple stages during the rally. It had a series of 14 punctures in the first four desert stages, followed by Carlos Sainz damaging his cars suspension in stage three and then re-damaging it in an accident in stage 6. Similarly, a stone destroyed the suspension of Ekström’s car in the 7th stage.
Inspite all these challenges, Sainz was following the 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhanse, closely at no 4 position, who eventually was no longer in the race, after jumping off a dune, his car landed so hard that co-driver Edouard Boulanger was taken to hospital with back pain. “But then it seemed that nothing was going in our favor this year,” Carlos Sainz summed up towards the end. “The entire team was well prepared but two accidents prevented our finish. That’s how motorsport can be sometimes, unfortunately.”
To sum up then, Sven Quandt, team principal of the Q Motorsport analyzed, “In some respects, the Dakar Rally has returned to its roots this year, The relentless pace, the setbacks for a number of top drivers, correspondingly large shifts in the standings, the length of many stages and the challenging terrain are all reminders of the past. I’m happy that we as a team with Audi managed this competition and made it possible to reach the finish. For Mattias and Emil, this discipline is still relatively new. Hats off to their performances.”
Motorsport across the world is now getting under immense scanner from environmentalists, thanks to the carbon emissions. However, Audi is focusing on a significantly reduced environmental footprint through a new fuel blend and introduction of electric vehicles. Electrification began a decade ago with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro for the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. In 2017, Audi took on the challenge of battery-electric drives for the first time in Formula E. In 2022, an electric drive from Audi with a high-voltage battery and energy converter had to prove itself for the first time in the world’s toughest desert rally. The Audi RS Q e-tron won four stages at the Dakar Rally at the first attempt. The second start is scheduled for 2023.
“At Audi, we are pursuing a consistent strategy of decarbonization,” says Oliver Hoffmann, Board Member for Technical Development at Audi. “Our battery vehicles and renewable electricity are the lead technologies. Complementing them, renewable fuels offer the possibility of running internal combustion engines in a more climate friendly way. The Audi RS Q e-tron combines both systems in its innovative drive. As a result, we are now on the road even more sustainably in the toughest motorsport imaginable for electric drives.”
We are looking forward to the second start which is scheduled for 2023, are you?