Exactly within 99 days the 44th edition of the rally will begin Dakar Rally, which will be held again in Saudi Arabia. For Audi Sport, which opens in the legendary test, this is the beginning of a real race against time.
The German brand will face these challenges with a unique concept: the Audi RS Q e-tron, which incorporates an electric propulsion system with two motor-generator units (MGU) from the Formula E. While the vehicle is in motion, the high-voltage battery is charged with the help of an energy converter composed of another MGU and by an efficient TFSI engine derived from the one that Audi has used successfully in the DTM.
"The prototype of the Audi RS Q e-tron was developed in around twelve months", he claimed Julius Seebach, Director of Audi Sport. The first test, held on June 30, 2021 in Neuburg an der Donau, and the start of the Dakar on January 1, 2022 in Ha'il (Saudi Arabia), are separated by only six months. “It is very little time to prepare such a complex project. I am not able to describe it in words: the Audi RS Q e-tron is the most technologically advanced vehicle that Audi Sport has brought to the competition ”.
Andreas roos, responsible for all official activities of Audi in competition, confirms this: “The Dakar is a great challenge even for a vehicle with a conventional engine. With the powertrain that we have developed, the challenge is even greater. The chassis and suspension don't make any big differences, but we have a lot more components in the car that not only have to be light, reliable and competitive in the extreme conditions of the Dakar, but they also have to be perfectly synchronized and work together smoothly. " .
A Dakar vehicle with a conventional powertrain has two main components: the internal combustion engine and the transmission. “In our Audi RS Q e-tron we use an electric motor on the front axle, an electric motor on the rear axle, a high-voltage battery and the power converter, which is made up of another MGU that acts as a generator and of a TFSI engine that comes from the DTM ”, Explain.
“And each of these components, for example, needs a specific cooling system. That means that we not only have a cooling system in the car, but up to six systems in total, including the intercooler and the one corresponding to the air conditioning system for the driver and co-driver ”, adds Roos.
Assembly is another important issue in such a complex vehicle. "We had to take advantage of every inch to house all the components of the car", the engineer points out. This is where the complexity of repair and maintenance tasks comes into play. “For example, changing the front axle differential still takes a long time. We must be able to do it faster on the Dakar and it is one of the issues that we are working on now under enormous pressure, due to the time remaining to the start of the race ”.
The peculiarities of the Dakar route, with sand, water, cold and large differences in altitude, must also be taken into account. "We have many electrical components in the car that we need to protect from sand and water in the most effective way possible."Roos declares. "We have learned a lot in the tests we have carried out so far and we are trying to introduce all that experience into the cars that are going to contest the Dakar Rally."
Meanwhile, assembly of the final units with which Audi will compete in the Dakar has started at Audi Sport in Neuburg an der Donau. Since the Audi RS Q e-tron also runs on public roads in cross-country competitions, each vehicle must be homologated for the road and include the corresponding individual acceptance. At the same time, the development program until December includes a large number of additional stations, such as the Audi climate chamber to simulate the temperatures and altitude differences of the Dakar and a pendulum test on a special test bench.
There are still 99 days until the Dakar begins. It will be extremely intense days for all the team members to achieve the next great objective of this path: to be on the Ha'il exit ramp with the three cars perfectly ready and to begin this great challenge.