Dakar, a place, but also a journey that has become so synonymous with the spirit of adventure that it transcends borders or geography. For forty-three years, the Dakar Rally has pushed the boundaries of off-road racing and the 2022 running represents the most ambitious effort yet, not simply due to the terrain, but as a result of the mission behind it.
Naturally, the terrain and the challenges it will impose on both humans and machines remain as grueling as ever, but in 2022 Audi is pursuing a greater challenge. A challenge that Audi is answering with the RS Q e-tron*: a Dakar contender with a hybrid powertrain consisting of a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder internal combustion engine, paired with a 50-kWh battery driving two electric motors, one at each axle. This is a combination of the hardware found and developed in-house during the Formula E times.
While drivers may rightly be designated as the figureheads of racing, no individual skillset can be realized without the support of a team behind it. Particularly for an event like the Dakar where, once green flags fly, there are no pit lanes with a crew waiting for you on the next lap to solve whatever problem may have presented itself. This means the preparation needs to be that much more proactive, that much more predictive, and is therefore that much more critical. One mistake can be a “rally ender,” as described by Audi Dakar team driver, Mattias Ekström, with whom we sat and talked about how he, and Audi, are gearing up for the 2022 Dakar Rally and their debut of the RS Q e-tron*.
So what’s the goal? To prove a point and innovate, which has always been in Audi’s Motorsport DNA. From the Ur-Quattro to winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with a hybrid powertrain, to the RS Q e-tron* in Dakar, innovation requires vulnerability and a willingness to risk a singular failure. A small price to potentially pay for generational success, or "Living Progress,” as Audi calls it. As Ekström said: “If you walk in everyone else’s footsteps, you’ll never be first.”
The 44th Dakar Rally takes place from January 1-14, 2022. Stay tuned for updates.