At Audi Sport, everything revolves around Formula 1 at the moment. Since the announcement of the entry of the Ingolstadt-based company into the premier class of racing in 2026, there has been a hail of inquiries. There is still a long way to go before the four rings can be seen in the Grand Prix circus. And above all, until then there is another motorsport project that the Ingolstadt-based company is dedicating itself to with full energy and probably with excessive budgets: the Dakar desert rally, which was the first time this year. The emergency vehicle is the RS Q e-tron, which deserves the attribute in a revolutionary way: It is fully electrically driven and draws the power for it from an on-board high-performance generator.
The great potential of this technology was already evident at the Dakar debut in January 2022. Stage victories and a ninth place in the overall classification covered up the teething problems of the vehicle and the expensive learning curve that desert rallies demand. And it became apparent that one point had not been considered consistently enough in the short development period: the vehicle weight. The Audi clearly exceeded the specified minimum value, which is fundamentally a shortcoming in racing. A significant part of this ballast was the responsibility of the designers. So had great influence, were allowed to help shape and realize their ideas of a futuristic rally Audi. The result was a really impressive RS Q e-tron, but it wasn't exactly a sporty slim-fit model.
But it wasn't just design elements that were discarded. “As a beginner, we simply misjudged some things before our first Dakar,” Brunninger admits. The underride protection, i.e. plates, especially in the front area of the vehicle, were much too massive. They, too, were exchanged for alternatives befitting their status. A total of 80 kilograms are said to have been saved in this way. If you look at old and new, there should be even more. In any case, the weight is now in the target range. This goal has not yet been precisely defined, because the World Automobile Association FIA will only announce the exact rules in October. While the minimum weight for this vehicle category was two tons this year, it will probably be 2.1 tons in 2023. But adding ballast is always easier than saving weight. Especially since the center of gravity can be further optimized in this way.
The rules, which have not yet been officially fixed, do not only raise question marks with regard to weight. Since Audi's drive concept is unique, the task of the world association is also to adapt the other vehicle categories - above all those in which the main competitor and 2022 winner Toyota starts - to one another. It is obvious that politics is also involved. For example, it is not certain how much power the RS Q e-tron E2 will ultimately have. Its predecessor brought it to 392 hp. More would be possible, but a slight reduction is more likely. The drive concept remained untouched for this stage of evolution: two electric motors, 800 volt system voltage, 52 kWh battery and a combustion engine for power generation, which has its roots in the DTM. Only the control system has been further refined.
"The RS Q e-tron E2 is significantly more agile than its predecessor," says factory driver Mattias Ekström, who has already extensively tested the new one. But in desert rallies, pilots are not only racers, but often also their own mechanics together with their co-pilots. In the event of damage, they should get the car going again on the road – quickly and without many tools. Even if it may sound banal: Changing a tire is a challenge in the desert and is one of the more common breakdowns. Thanks to special wheel hubs, the trained Audi drivers can now make the change in less than two minutes. This value is so important because it starts every two minutes. In the event of a longer breakdown, the successor pulls past, which would mean driving behind in a cloud of dust. A hint that probably came from experienced desert drivers and not from the designers.