Audi to tackle Dakar

Audi Sport announces new motorsport direction that will include the gruelling Dakar Rally.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Audi Sport has announced it will take on the world’s toughest off-road rally in 2022.

2 December, 2020

Audi Sport will take on the gruelling Dakar Rally in 2022 for the first time and with an electric prototype vehicle

If the idea of Audi Sport taking on significant motorsport challenges sounds familiar, that’s because it has always been integral to the brand’s growth and development. So while the announcement to take on the gruelling Dakar Rally in 2022 for the first time and with a prototype driven by a powerful electric drivetrain, may surprise some, it is just a continuation of the brand’s ongoing motorsport strategy.

“A multifaceted commitment to motorsport is and will remain an integral part of Audi’s strategy,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management and Board of Management Member for Technical Development and Product Lines at AUDI AG. “We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars. The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”

The vehicle will be driven by a powerful electric drivetrain. The energy required for this comes from a high-voltage battery, which can be charged as required while driving via an energy converter in the form of a highly efficient TFSI engine. The aim is to permanently improve the performance of the electric drivetrain and the battery in the years to come. The experience gained in this process should then be incorporated into the further development of future electrified production models. 

The announcement means that the brand will shift its focus away from Formula E after the coming 2021 season and will no longer field a factory team. The use of the newly developed Audi powertrain by customer teams will still be possible after next year though, in much the same way as Audi Sport has supplied the e-tron cars for the Envision Formula E team in the past.

Audi Sport will contest the FIA Formula E Championship in 2021.
Audi Sport will continue to support customer teams in Formula E after next year.

The future though will focus on the extremes that are the Dakar Rally and a proposed return to endurance sportscar racing at a date to be confirmed with a vehicle meeting the new LMDh (Le Mans Daytona) regulations.

Obviously Audi’s recent racing past has seen it achieve tremendous success in both world rally in the 1980s and then in endurance racing from 2000. In both of these extreme motorsport disciplines, Audi literally rewrote motorsport history, completely dominating world rally with its quattro monsters and then changing perceptions of world motorsport with its Le Mans assault.

Between 2000 and 2016 Audi Sport not only recorded an incredible 13 victories at Le Mans, but did so using technology that continually challenged convention.

Amongst its 13 victories, it was the 2012 victory the brand achieved with the R18 e-tron quattro that is perhaps the most telling, given it was the first time a hybrid race car had won the event – and it did so on debut!

The R18 e-tron quattro went on to win the race three times in succession, its hybrid drive changing the way people viewed performance sportscar racing forever.

Since then, Audi Sport has put its energies into Formula E, and this platform has been perfect in the development stages of electric racing. 

“Formula E has accompanied the transformation phase at Audi,” says Markus Duesmann. “Today, electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present.”

“This is why we are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions. The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect.” 

"we are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions"

Markus Duesmann

Audi changed world rallying for ever in the 1980s.
The Audi R18 e-tron quattro won Le Mans for the first time with hybrid drive in 2012.