Audi unveils upgraded Dakar 2023 contender

RS Q e-tron E2 is a heavily revised version of Audi's 2022 Dakar challenger

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Audi has unveiled the first major evolution of its electric car with which it will contest next year’s Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.

The new RS Q e-tron E2 has undergone significant aerodynamic changes and bodywork alterations to the original RS Q e-tron which made its rally raid debut on the Dakar in 2022.

Chief designer of the RS Q e-tron E2 Axel Löffler says that the new car “does not adopt a single body part from its predecessor,” while adding that the overall weight has been reduced in an effort to increase efficiency and lower its center of gravity.

“We are now doing away with the underflow of the rear hood to the left and right of the B-pillars,” adds Löffler.

“[The removal of these components] further reduces the energy requirements of the electrically powered car.

“We implemented the aerodynamic calculations entirely using computational fluid dynamics (CFD).”

Visually, the E2 is a lot more compact than its predecessor with the entire bodyshell replaced for the 2023 edition of the Dakar to boost airflow over the car.

Drag will be reduced by up to 15% and, while the top speed remains restricted to 170kph (105mph), multiple Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel reckons the new E2 can achieve this more effectively.

“For sure, I feel the weight a little bit more, the car is a little bit lighter,” explained Peterhansel. “But for me, it’s the acceleration which makes the car more free, like there’s no resistance at all.

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“We are able to hit our top speed quicker as well.”

One of the key concerns from the most recent edition of the Dakar was punctures, with Peterhansel’s charge being disrupted with several tire issues – along with suspension failures – from the opening week.

In an effort to mitigate the time loss in the event of punctures in future, the E2 now features easily removable components instead of the cumbersome bodywork of last year.

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New 10-spoke rims supplied by Rotiform and easier access to spare tires at the side of the car are what Audi Sport’s head of vehicle operations, Uwe Breuling, says are lessons learned.

“We have combined all the important lessons in a very short time,” explains Breuling.

“The result of our ideas is the E2 evolution.

“Our development team’s determined and cost-efficient work has prepared us perfectly for our second Dakar Rally.”

The final important development of the new E2 centers around its energy storage and usage. The car retains the internal combustion engine and generator from its predecessor, while the MGU-Ks originating from its Formula E project continue to power the car in stage mode.

Having experienced instances of ‘short-term energy surpluses’ in 2022, Audi has taken measures to limit the amount of power coming from its electric motors – which are placed on the rear axles of the car – to aid safety and avoid sporting penalties.

“We could have made it easy on ourselves and set our threshold several kilowatts lower, but that would have meant performance disadvantages,” said Florian Semlinger, the development engineer for embedded software, application and test bench.

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“Instead, we put a lot of fine-tuning into the power controllers.” Two individual limits – one for each motor – are now recalculated by the software within milliseconds. As a result, it operates precisely along the permissible limit.”

The new E2 has undergone an initial test in Zaragoza, Spain and is expected to contest the Rallye du Maroc in October before Dakar preparations kick up a gear heading into the winter.

Words:Stephen Brunsdon

Photography:Audi Sport