In January 2024, Audi will take on the super tough Dakar desert rally for a third time, bringing with it an upgraded version of its RS Q e-tron prototype. Audi says this year’s fully-electric, off-road e-tron is safer, more reliable, more comfortable, and even a tad lighter. Can it take the podium in the desert this go around?
Audi first joined the 2022 Dakar Rally – which is an off-road endurance event held each year since 1979, which sends five competitive groups of both amateur and professional drivers trekking across the Sahara Desert. Since 2020 however, the Dakar has been held in Saudi Arabia.
The 2024 rally begins in the thousand-year-old city of AlUla – the race’s prologue, kicking off 12 stages of navigating across the country in 14 days, covering the equivalent distance of 5,000 km (3,100 miles).
Audi first brought its custom-built e-tron to Dakar during its 2022 event, but we got our first look at the off-road RS Q e-tron before that in the summer of 2021 as Audi was putting the EV through endurance testing in Spain. During its inaugural event, the RS Q e-tron would suffer a devastating blow to its suspension, requiring a second EV to be delivered and carry on. That driver would end up getting lost, eliminating Audi from contention.
By fall of 2022, Audi had returned with an upgraded version of its RS Q e-tron prototype with hopes for a better outcome at the 2023 Dakar Rally. Well, 2023 was slightly better – Audi completed the rally, scoring a total of 14 podium results on 15 event days including the prologue and even led the race for three days. However, a series of punctures, accident-related retirements, and a massive loss of driver time resulted in a 14th place finish.
Today, Audi announced it is back with V3 of its RS Q e-tron prototype, alongside confidence its latest improvements offer the perfect preparations to dominate the Saudi desert this January.
Audi continues to improve RS Q e-tron ahead of Dakar Rally
Audi shared details of its latest version of the off-road e-tron today, explaining it has used everything learned from the past two Dakar Rallies to adapt and deliver an EV that is more reliable and has shorter maintenance time between stages.
The aforementioned accidents of drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz during the 2023 Dakar Rally prompted Audi to put a keen focus on safety this go around, with the help of Dr. Leonardo Pascali, the project’s new technical director who has been working with his team since early summer.
One of the goals was to reduce peak vertical acceleration during landings and large jumps. Pascali says his team adjusted the springs, dampers and the bump stop in the chassis, distributing some of the load more effectively over time, while enable better control of the platform. The result is a safer ride on the tough terrain, as well as better overall EV performance.
The CFRP crash box at the EV’s front end structure is now longer and able to absorb more energy if another accident were to occur and engineers installed a modified front bonnet that is more effective in repelling splashes of mud and water, keeping the view through the windshield clearer. Audi also put a lot of time into the driver’s seats in these year’s Dakar EV, explaining that material stiffness and the geometries of the seat foam are affected by the temperature in the cockpit and made efforts to ensure its drivers feel less of the load of the drive over longer periods of time on the routes.
Lastly, Audi says it feels empowered ahead of the 2024 Dakar Rally thanks to clever improvements to the RS Q e-tron prototype’s maintenance capabilities. Per Audi:
Thanks to many practical ideas in this detail area, quite a few steps have been simplified. For example, modified bolted connections, improved tool holders, optimized filling cap devices for operating fluids, new locking solutions for body parts and bolted instead of glued connections all contribute to simpler and faster servicing.
Audi says it has been testing the third version of the RS Q e-tron since the middle of 2023 and feels as prepared as ever for Dakar in 2024. This year’s event will take place from January 5-19.