Audi and the Dakar Rally: electric racers with a combustion engine

Et’s been a while since Audi got involved in rallying. It was the wild eighties when the Ingolstadt-based company mixed up the sport with a very special car, one that rally icon Walter Röhrl described as the most extreme vehicle he had ever driven: the Audi Quattro Sport S E2. A huge spoiler was enthroned on the stern of the “wing monster”, and the 600 hp motor turned the speeding box into a projectile on wheels that only experts could move successfully.

Now Audi is returning to the rally scene, again with a sensational car, the RS Q e-tron. In January it will start at the Dakar Rally. The drive concept makes this car special. It goes forward purely electrically. However, since there are no charging stations in the desert of Saudi Arabia, where the race will take place again in 2022, a combustion engine in the RS Q e-tron provides the necessary charge. Audi sends the two-liter four-cylinder turbo engine from the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) into the desert, where it is to produce the electricity in the new Dakar racing car as a kind of onboard power plant, which the so-called motor-generator units ( MGU). One each sits on the front and rear axles, and a third, reverse-working, directly behind the engine, where it converts its energy into electricity and feeds the 370-kilogram 52-kilowatt-hour battery. The driver can control the power distribution of the MGUs using a virtual, freely configurable center differential.

The internal combustion engine installed behind the two seats should by no means be in operation all the time, as Andreas Roos, head of the Dakar project, says. In addition, the up to 580 HP strong machine should run in an “efficient speed range between 4500 and 6000 revolutions per minute”. For a racing engine, which in the DTM version can trumpet at 9,000 revs, this is a kind of gentle operation. But the model athlete does need one thing: gasoline. That is why the Ingolstadt desert racer also has a 295 liter tank.

The RS Q e-tron could also come from Star Wars.

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Audi and the Dakar Rally

Electric racer with a combustion engine

Depending on the regulations of the Dakar rally, which are still to be published, the car will have a system output of around 400 horsepower – a maximum of 680 would be possible – and be capable of speeds of up to 170 km / h. An important value is the acceleration. The electric motors catapult the man from Ingolstadt, who weighs around two tons, to 100 km / h in less than 4.5 seconds – on loose ground.

“This is one of the most complex cars I’ve ever seen,” says Sven Quandt, who will race the car with his Q Motorsport team. The 65-year-old Quandt is a specialist in international off-road competitions, has dominated the scene with his X-raid racing team and clinched six Dakar titles with the Minis. As a desert fox, he also knows how engines react to sand, dust and heat. But high-performance electric motors? Quandt and Audi are entering uncharted territory.

Ingolstadt is now striking back

You can see at first glance that something special is taking place here. The RS Q e-tron looks as if George Lucas had sent it to earth from one of his “Star Wars” films. The director actually has an affinity for German car manufacturing. Because in 2019 Porsche designed a spaceship for Lucas with the spacey name Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter. Now Ingolstadt strikes back and sends the RS Q e-tron into the race. With each of its sharply drawn edges, the car seems to signal to the competition, loosely based on David Bowie’s Major Tom from the song “Space Oddity”: Take your protein pills and put on your helmets. Here comes the e-tron.

You have to look closely to identify the vehicle as an Audi. The coupé silhouette from the Sportback models can be seen, the four rings on all sides of the carbon fiber body help, can also be seen on the roof – because of the helicopter shots that are supposed to bring the Dakar into the living room of TV viewers. The rest are edges, sideblades and huge wheel arches with 37 × 12.5 R-17 tires on wrought-iron rims.

Large mouth air inlet

The front of the car is flat like a large spoiler, razor-sharp and set high so that it is not damaged on landing after jumps. On the roof, an air inlet stretches its big mouth into the hot desert storm to cool the batteries and motors. When the drivers of the three vehicles planned for the Dakar, Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, squeeze into the bucket seats next to their co-drivers, they can be sure that the rally world is watching closely. “The guys from Audi’s design department were able to fully contribute their ideas and visions,” says Roos.

The racer has already passed a few tests. The roll-out took place very close to Ingolstadt, in Neuburg, and the car was chased through the Area 39 test site of German rally driver Armin Schwarz near Magdeburg. In the vicinity of Zaragoza there was recently a “hot test,” as Roos says. The Audi is now being brought to Morocco, where it will pass the first stages in the desert.

How much of the technology that Audi transferred to rallying after leaving Formula E can be used in everyday life remains to be seen. The self-developed battery and the energy management could be groundbreaking elements. Exact data on consumption and charging behavior are not yet available. “It’s just too early for that,” says Roos, who thinks it’s much too premature to set the Dakar victory as a goal now. “First of all, it’s about durability and reliability.” Quandt compares the project with the first moon landing: “If we get to the finish, that’s already a success.” Whether the fourteen-time Dakar winner Quandt has on his team, that too so sees? It will be interesting to see how Peterhansel and his colleagues manage to travel to the moon.


The post Audi and the Dakar Rally: electric racers with a combustion engine appeared first on Archyde.

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