Five very different high-performance or competition vehicles all sporting the e-tron moniker and four of the brand’s outstanding motorsports talents come together to see how far electrification has come in motorsport at Audi in just over a decade.
31 October, 2023
Four of the greatest drivers of the modern age and five cutting-edge performance machines from Audi Sport, specifically developed for motorsport or high-performance applications. It’s a union to thrill any performance enthusiast, and one that shows the significant progress in electrified performance at Audi Sport in just over 10 years of development.
In an event called ‘e-tron on track’ Audi Sport assembled the apparently disparate vehicles and the four champion drivers at its Neuburg performance facility north of Ingolstadt to showcase the different application of its e-mobility at the pointy end of the performance scale, from the earliest e-tron race vehicle – the Audi R18 e-tron e-tron quattro – through to the current Dakar Rally contender, the Audi RS Q e-tron quattro E2 and three other notable e-tron vehicles in between that show how the brand is developing and proving its performance vehicles through the time-honoured crucible of motorsport.
On hand was the man who piloted the legendary R18 e-tron quattro to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Tom Kristensen, whose nine wins the famous race will never be bettered and have earned him a unique place in the annals of motorsport. This car represented the brand’s initial move to alternate power sources in motorsport and signalled a change that continues to this day.
He was joined by the three Audi Sport drivers tasked with taking on the world’s toughest off-road rally raid event, the Dakar Rally behind the wheel of the latest race vehicle from the brand, the RS Q e-tron.
Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz are each outstanding champions in their own right and in their respective disciplines, focusing their extraordinary talent and experience on the coming Dakar Rally in January which will be the brand’s third tilt at the event in as many years.
But on this particular track day, it was a chance for these outstanding drivers to sample the vehicles of their colleagues and get a sense of what these other Audi Sport vehicles were capable of.
“The R18 was a strongly driver-oriented, very aggressive car. You always got good feedback up to the limit,” Tom Kristensen said of the car that won three Le Mans 24 Hour races in succession (2012 –2014). “It was the most complex car I’ve ever driven.”
No surprise then that his French colleague, 14-times Dakar winner, Stéphane Peterhansel, was captivated by the car and was keen to experience for himself the vehicle that started the brand down its electrified pathway.
“For me as a Frenchman, a race as rich in history as the Le Mans 24 Hours is something very special. Formula 1, Le Mans and Dakar are monuments of motorsport. That's why it was clear that I’d choose the R18 today.”
His subsequent drive at Neuburg more than living up to expectation for the 58-year-old Frenchman.
“An amazing car. Everything is incredibly direct and precise. For me, of course, circuit racing is unfamiliar. But it was enormous fun. And the concept shows that the electric drive pays off: You can clearly feel how the hybrid drive additionally accelerates the car.”
For teammate, Carlos Sainz, the Audi e-tron Vision Gran Turismo was hard to go past. This vehicle created initially for the celebrated video game Gran Turismo and then brought to life by Audi engineers is the most powerful of the assembles vehicle with nearly 600kW of power from its purely electric drive proving irresistible to the two-time World Rally Champion and three-time Dakar winner.
“A great car that also looks fantastic. Once you’ve had the chance to try out such a powerful electric car, you only want to drive powertrains like that,” said the enthusiastic Spaniard after sampling the car that was developed by Audi Sport five years ago and saw duty as a ‘race taxi’ at Formula E events all over the world.
Also on show for the event was the Audi e-tron FE07 which was created for the 2020/21 Formula E season. The battery electric powered race car marked the next step in Audi’s motorsport strategy and could mobilise up to 253kW depending on the operating mode as stipulated by the race regulations.
For two-time DTM champion and former rallycross world champion Mattias Ekström, the one-off vehicle produced for the late Ken Block was his first choice on the day. The start of Electrikhana, the the Audi S1 e-tron quattro Hoonitron was inspired by Block’s favourite Audi of all- time, the Audi Sport quattro S1 from the 1987 Pikes Peak mountain race, but with a contemporary, all-electric take.
“I chose this car because I’m a big fan of quattro drive,” said the 45-year-old Swede. “I drove this car once before in Davos on snow and ice. And now I had to realise that the power is so extreme even on asphalt that I could have drifted the entire track. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”
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