Audi will enter one car for the second round of the World Rally Raid Championship in Abu Dhabi next month as it continues its development of the electric RS Q e-tron.
The Q Motorsport-run project, headed up by X-raid team founder Sven Quandt, completed its maiden competitive outing on this year’s Dakar Rally, winning four stages and bagging a top 10 finish with Mattias Ekström and his co-driver Emil Bergkvist.
Audi’s primary objective remains next year’s Dakar, but the team’s head of motorsport programs Julius Seebach revealed to DirtFish that it will contest “selected events” for the remainder of 2022, with Abu Dhabi the first on the agenda.
“We will do that event with Stéphane [Peterhansel],” Seebach said.
“It’s a test for us in hot conditions which, at the moment, we are analyzing everything from the data, where we were good, where we should improve.
“Bringing the weight of the car down is also our plan, to optimize everything for next year.
“So, we will do a blend this year, we will do some races but not the championship and we will also do some testing because our main focus will be for Dakar 2023.”
Seebach also said that while Peterhansel is tasked with driving duties for Abu Dhabi, team-mates Ekström and Carlos Sainz will also get race time during the season.
“[For] Abu Dhabi we will have one car but for future races, we might have two cars or even three as preparation [for the Dakar],” he added.
“This is now up to us to form an optimization plan for the coming weeks. So, it’s still a work in progress.”
Although Audi’s cross-country bow produced a promising start, team principal Quandt believes the gains made in rivals Toyota and Prodrive – both of which enjoyed a more competitive Dakar following the upgrade to the new T1+ regulations – will require all his drivers to get valuable race seat time this year.
“For sure, we should not underestimate anybody, because they will all do more development and we will too of course,” Quandt told DirtFish.
“Our drivers, Stéphane, Carlos and Eki, can get into any car and be fast immediately so that’s why we can send them to not so many races. But they will do some races, for sure.”
If we had done one race before the Dakar, we would have had this [damper] problem and fixed it before Saudi Arabia.Sven Quandt on the difference between testing and racing
While Audi’s electric powertrain encountered ‘zero issues’ throughout the 12-day Dakar, the team was rocked by a number of damper problems that struck all three drivers in the opening week.
Peterhansel was sidelined twice by mechanical failure and stopped for a third time to donate his own rear suspension to team-mate Sainz, whose damper failed as well.
Refusing to go into specific details as to the remedy, Quandt is confident that Audi can develop this problem out of the car for the future.
“Race situations are a lot more different to testing and the cars had to endure more load and impacts than they ever did in testing,” Quandt said.
“So, this is why we encountered these issues in the first week. The Dakar is about maximum attack, and this is what caused the problem with the damper. If we had done one race before the Dakar, we would have had this problem and fixed it before Saudi Arabia.
“We identified the problem and repaired them in a few days to a point where they didn’t fail again. It’s not the final solution but it was a pretty good solution at the time.”
Peterhansel is a six-time winner of the Abu Dhabi Challenge, having tasted success on four occasions with Mitsubishi between 2002 and 2007 and another two with X-raid Mini in 2011 and 2019.