For a company which is synonymous with rallying victories and all-terrain progress, there has been one challenge conspicuously absent from Audi’s competition history: the Dakar Rally.
It seems 2022 will be the year however as the company has just announced that a factory team will compete in the race. Audi has only released one teaser image, with a prominently displayed four-ring array, but even in outline the racer looks like a winner. The fin-like along the roof could almost have you imagining a high-riding R18. Which is apt since the Dakar machine will also be a hybrid. Audi obviously has form in tests of endurance motorsport – the R18 e-tron quattro was a hat-trick Le Mans winner.
However, Audi is taking an entirely different engineering approach with what it describes as a “powerful electric drivetrain” in which a high-capacity battery provides power to electric motors but is in turn charged by an efficient TFSI petrol engine. The company’s aim with this approach is research and development of electric drivetrains in some of the harshest conditions imaginable – both environmental and competitive – to improve when we might be driving in the future.
It does unfortunately mean that Audi will be departing the Formula E grid after next year’s season. As a toe in the water to electric racing, the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team was a successful one with 12 wins and both driver and manufacturer titles. But circuit racing fans need not worry that this means an end to all Audi activity on smooth surfaces, as the company is actively preparing entries for the upcoming LMDh class in 2023 with particular attention being paid to the Le Mans and Daytona 24 Hour races. If this is the electrified future of motorsport, count us in.