Carlos Sainz and Audi aim for podium in Dakar Rallye


Revolutionizing the sport towards energy efficiency and being among the best in the process: Audi has set itself an ambitious task for the RS Q e-tron’s second participation in the Dakar Rally. After four stage wins in his first Dakar last January, Audi Sport director Rolf Michl has set a clear objective for the race that will be contested from December 31, 2022 to January 15, 2023: a podium finish in the overall standings. In December, the innovative prototype with electric drive, power converter and high-voltage battery won the “Racecar Powertrain of the Year” award from a jury of experts from Race Tech magazine.

Starting on New Year’s Eve, the driver and co-driver teams of Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz, Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist and Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger will take on their second participation in the Dakar Rally, in an edition with a prologue and 14 stages. Seventy percent of the route in Saudi Arabia is new for the teams, and the ASO organizers have considerably increased the demands: the stages between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, with between 350 and 500 km, are longer and more difficult than last year. The Empty Quarter, with its imposing dunes, is particularly demanding.

The three Audi Sport squads will compete with a significantly improved evolution of the Audi RS Q e-tron. It is homologated in the T1-U category, which has been paving the way for a low-emission future in cross-country rallying since 2022. The front and rear axle drive is electric, and the electric motors draw their power from a high-voltage battery. An updated control system optimizes the energy balance of the various components. A highly efficient energy converter consisting of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a motor-generator unit (MGU), which operates in the optimum performance zone and charges the battery, processes renewable fuel (reFuel) for the first time. Based on biogenic plant parts that do not contain food waste, they help reduce CO2 emissions by more than 60%.

For Carlos Sainz, three-time Dakar winner, the focus is on the remarkable evolution of the team in such a short time: “You can’t compare the situation today with that of a year ago. The experience with the new car helps a lot, so our objectives are also changing. In 2022 we were cautious, and now we hope to compete for the top places. The biggest challenge is still the Dakar itself: every day holds surprises”. His co-driver Lucas Cruz feels well prepared for these situations: “We got to know the new car well enough to be able to repair it ourselves. The Empty Quarter stages will be the highlight. We have a long Dakar ahead of us, with very tough days in the desert”.