In the Dakar rally, the very first stage of competitive driving before the endurance stages is called the Prologue. It is effectively a race to the race. Significantly shorter, but no less intense, and the first full display and demonstration of the teams and drivers preparation up to that point.
But even before the Prologue is the scrutineering phase. This can make or break a team—before the engines even start. In these few days, the race's governing body ensures rules are being implemented correctly, but more importantly, it affords an opportunity for teams to "shakedown" their cars in the actual racing environment they might not have experienced yet.
The shakedown, as it's called, is, in the world of racing, a process of technical illumination. Through it, teams seek to identify every potential pain point in a car's setup, such as the powertrain, chassis, and even the software. Every critical detail, from every nut and bolt being torqued to every measurement verified, is examined in preparation for a proverbial mechanical war.
As part of our partnership with Audi documenting its 2022 Dakar effort, we went to the Saudi desert to talk with RS Q e-tron drivers Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, and Mattias Ekström, before the race and capture the final adjustments to the hybrid vehicle ahead of its Dakar debut.
We test all possibilities with a simulation, but we never know what can happen because the Dakar is really a tough race.
Every Dakar is different. This year in Saudi Arabia, we know it'll be a lot of sun and sand dunes.
The preparation for the Dakar started a long time ago. We've been doing regular fitness training, we've been testing the cars. Once you're here, it's just to take care of the food, drinks, and sleeping habits so the battery is fully charged when it's time to race.
The challenge is really with this new technology, but everybody is really motivated. The last month was crazy and everybody gave maximum energy to the project. And now, we are here.