How the World Rally-Raid season is shaping up post-Audi

A shaken-up W2RC heads to Portugal this week with a host of changes in its line-up


Cross-country rallying and the World Rally-Raid Championship has effectively been turned on its head since the end of the Dakar Rally in January.

For a start, after finally securing victory on the Dakar, Audi Sport has officially called time on its three-year adventure in rally raid, leaving recently crowned four-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz without a full-time drive.

The same fate has also befallen his team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel, Mattias Ekström and their respective navigators Edouard Boulanger and Emil Bergkvist.

Boulanger is now partnered with double world champion Nasser Al-Attiyah while the Qatari’s long-time co-driver Mathieu Baumel will compete alongside title rival Guerlain Chicherit for a one-off outing in an Overdrive Racing Toyota.

Sainz has reunited with his old team, Sven Quandt’s X-Raid Mini JCW outfit with whom he won his fourth Dakar in 2020. The only difference this weekend is that he’ll have Alex Haro Bravo – Orlando Terranova’s regular navigator – sitting next to him instead of Lucas Cruz.

And to top it all off – if you’re still following – Sébastien Loeb has dropped down to the Challenger class (reserved for the T3 vehicles) alongside Cristina Gutiérrez. They’ll be disputing the victory but won’t score points as they are not registered for the full W2RC campaign.

What to look out for this weekend


Dakar winner Sainz returns to X-Raid Mini squad

The BP Ultimate Portugal Rally-Raid is the first cross-border event since the World Rally-Raid Championship began in 2022. Taking place between April 3-7, the event is based around the city of Grândola in the south of the country, passing over into Spain for the fourth stage, with the event totaling over 1000km (620 miles).

The event kicked off with a short prologue following which the top 10 crews get to choose their starting order for the opening stage later in the day.

A total of 500km (310 miles) follows around two loop stages circling back to Grândola on April 4-5, before the event heads to Spain for a 270km (170 miles) stage on April 6.

Then, it’s back to Portugal and the final 130km (80 miles) stage, split into two selective sections bringing the crews back to Grândola.

The state of play in the W2RC so far

DAKAR 2024 - STAGE 3

Al-Attiyah had troubled Dakar before bouncing back in Abu Dhabi

Following his Dakar victory, Sainz leads the W2RC standings by nine points from Al-Attiyah, who bounced back from a retirement in Saudi Arabia with victory in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge last month.

Neither are contesting the full W2RC season, meaning that Chicherit is the highest-placed full-season driver in third, just two points clear of fellow Overdrive Racing Toyota T1+ competitor Guillaume de Mevius.

Behind, also from the Overdrive Toyota stable, is Yazeed Al Rajhi and then the highest-placed Toyota Gazoo Racing driver, Lucas Moraes.


Guerlain Chicherit leads the way among W2RC's full-season drivers

Keen to make an impact on the W2RC is the United States’ Seth Quintero, who has had a bumpy ride in his first season of T1+ so far. The Challenger world champion has shown undoubted pace but has yet to take an elusive breakthrough podium.

Audi’s decision to quit this season’s W2RC could cost it €750,000 (US$807,000) in FIA fines. The German manufacturer’s failure to appear at the previous round in Abu Dhabi brought a stewards’ decision from the event imposing the fine.

A proportion of the fine was suspended subject to a further no-show. With Audi having confirmed the end of its RS Q e-tron effort, the firm can expect to be hit with the full amount.

Audi is appealing the decision.