Audi concludes Dakar program with historic vitory

Audi has clinched victory at the 2024 Dakar Rally, breaking new ground as the first-ever winner with an electric drivetrain. Piloted by the seasoned Spanish duo of driver Carlos Sainz Sr. and navigator Lucas Cruz, the Audi RS Q e-tron emerged victorious after a challenging race that spanned twelve grueling stages.

At 61 years old, Sainz is a veteran rally racer and a two-time World Rally Champion. He’s the father of Scuderia Ferrari’s Formula 1 driver, Carlos Sainz Jr.

This achievement marks Audi’s third attempt at conquering the prestigious Dakar Rally. The team’s perseverance bore fruit after setbacks in the previous years.

In 2022, substantial damage dashed their hopes of victory, prompting a complete overhaul of the machine and rigorous testing to refine the prototype. Despite a spirited effort in the following year, unforeseen challenges, including tire losses, suspension damage, crashes, and rolls, hampered their progress. However, the setbacks fueled Audi’s determination to fortify their electric buggy, resulting in significant upgrades late in the previous year.

The RS Q e-tron off-road racer features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine borrowed from an Audi DTM race car. This engine acts as a generator, supplying power to the electric motors propelling each wheel – much like how Nissan’s e-Power works in the Kicks. The synergy between the internal combustion engine and electric drivetrain culminates in a formidable total system output of 670 horsepower. 

Remarkably, it’s not just sheer power that secured the victory, but a combination of cutting-edge technology, strategic improvements, and the skillful navigation of the Spanish pair.

What adds a layer of sweetness to the triumph is that Sainz and Cruz led the pack from the sixth stage onward, showcasing the dominance of the Audi RS Q e-tron throughout the competition. 

Oliver Hoffmann, Audi’s member of the board responsible for technical development, expressed the significance of their electrified drive, stating, “With our revolutionary electrified drive, we have overcome one of the biggest challenges in motorsport after just three years.” Hoffmann emphasized the continuation of Audi’s legacy of pioneering achievements in four decades of motorsport.

While the immediate impact on road vehicles may not be apparent, Audi assures enthusiasts that the lessons learned from this endeavor will contribute to real-world advancements in the long term. The historic win not only proves the capability of electrified machines against traditional combustion engines but also underscores Audi’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of automotive technology.

However, the victory is bittersweet as 2024 marks the swan song for Audi’s Dakar program. The company will shift its focus to the highly anticipated Formula 1 effort set for 2026. The decision to conclude the Dakar chapter amplifies the significance of the win, as Audi bids farewell to the iconic rally with a resounding triumph, truly going out with a bang.

In the annals of motorsport history, Audi’s 2024 Dakar Rally victory will be remembered as a groundbreaking moment, not just for the brand but for the entire automotive industry, showcasing the prowess of electric drivetrains in the most challenging terrains on the planet.

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