Hopes of Dakar Victory Dashed for Audi RS Q e-tron, Carlos Sainz

Fourteen-time champion Stephane Peterhansel suffered huge suspension injury to his electrical Audi RS Q e-tron yesterday whereas operating second within the Dakar Rally. After ready almost 4 hours for a assist truck to reach, information reached the Audi crew {that a} second RS Q-tron – this one pushed by World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (’90, ’92) – had gotten misplaced, including almost two hours to their stage time and successfully eliminating the Audis from competition.

How did all of it go so fallacious for Audi?

To the uninitiated, it would seem to be Audi had an actual shot at victory at this yr’s Dakar Rally. In spite of everything, Audi is aware of the best way to make extraordinarily succesful electrical vehicles, not the least of which being the quick, highly effective Audi e-tron GT that our personal Seth Weintraub acquired to drive via the Adirondacks final yr, and Audi’s entrepreneurs had hoped to leverage a robust displaying at Dakar to promote much more e-trons (GTs, Q4s, and all the pieces in between). To assist make sure that robust displaying, Audi spared no expense, hiring two huge names in Peterhansel (the winningest driver in Dakar historical past), and Sainz (a a number of Dakar winner as nicely, and an absolute legend of motorsport).

Issues had been trying good for Audi. Then, Peterhansel hit a rock at an off angle, successfully shearing the left rear suspension off of his rally buggy and leaving him, and his co-pilot, Edouard Boulanger, stranded within the distant Saudi desert …

… whereas Sainz simply acquired misplaced. Easy as that, in a full-on, Bugs Bunny, “I knew I ought to’ve taken that left flip at Albuquerque” kind of second.

And, whereas hitting a rock you didn’t fairly see feels completely comprehensible – particularly on a barren, monochromatic panorama at triple-digit speeds – and Sainz’ getting misplaced and randomly tooling across the sand dunes for 2 hours most likely feels much less completely comprehensible, they each grow to be extra comprehensible within the following context: this was by no means going to be straightforward.

The deck had been stacked towards Audi

Toyota’s ICE contenders, a pair of twin-turbo Hello-Lux pickups, courtesy Toyota.

When Audi first introduced its intent to race the Dakar Rally with a automobile propelled solely by electrical energy (there is a 2.0-liter gasoline engine on board, nevertheless it’s strictly a range-extender to be used on the longest Dakar phases, and doesn’t energy the wheels), it did so beneath the assumption that the rules could be written in a manner that ensured its RS Q e-tron could be aggressive with the inner combustion engine (ICE) powered courses. From Audi’s standpoint, that meant their vehicles could be allowed an on-board tire inflation system to assist tune the automobile’s dealing with on the fly and a bodily bigger chassis to permit for extra suspension journey and larger wheels in a bid to unfold out affect masses and extra simply cowl uneven terrain.

Audi didn’t get these lodging, which the ICE courses did get, and the undertaking was on its again foot from then on. “What we will’t ignore is {that a} regulation that was going to offer precedence to those hybrid-electric engines (didn’t come to cross),” Sainz instructed Motorsport.com, within the hours earlier than the rally. “In the long run now we have the identical or much less energy and extra weight … We’re going to see this in a short time and sadly it has penalized the undertaking loads.”

We did “see this in a short time”, and – to followers of Audi’s motorsport program and electrical autos typically, it’s virtually painful to see it play out precisely the best way Sainz described.

And, earlier than somebody factors out that the rules didn’t make an enormous distinction as a result of the RS Q e-tron was operating second, keep in mind that Audi had arguably the most effective Dakar Rally driver of all time behind the wheel, and he was pushing his machine to absolutely the restrict simply to remain in contact with the main Toyota (a Toyota/Gazoo Racing Hilux pickup powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged Lexus LS engine packing “over 450 hp”). That’s a testomony to Peterhansel’s expertise (IMO), not the ASO’s “truthful and degree” rulebooks.

Possibly – probably- I’m simply bitter.

In any occasion, there’s nonetheless hope of a prime 10 end from the third Audi, piloted by Mattias Ekström (who, it needs to be famous, additionally acquired misplaced, lacking the waypoint within the first stage), however much more hope that the teachings discovered at this time will result in a extra aggressive electrical off-roader sooner or later. As for whether or not or not Sainz and Peterhansel will re-sign with Audi, that’s unclear – however Sainz appears motivated as ever, regardless of his 59 years of age. “Yearly I renew my desires, that’s what offers you the motivation to maintain going,” he says. “And when this undertaking was placed on the desk, it was thrilling sufficient to attempt to be a part of it. And for me, as a veteran, the truth that Audi was relying on me made me very excited.”

“Possibly subsequent yr,” in different phrases. Within the meantime, you possibly can take a look at some nice photos of the Q RS e-tron, under. Take pleasure in!

Supply | Photographs: Audi, Dakar

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