Just over a year ago it was little more than an idea – now the Audi RS Q e-tron has written its name in the motorsport history books with an outstanding Dakar debut.

15 January, 2022

After some 8000 gruelling kilometres across sandy plains, jagged rocks, towering dunes and dry riverbeds, all three Audi RS Q e-trons have made it across the finish line in Jeddah in the 2022 Dakar Rally. Racking up an incredible 14 podium stage finishes along the way, including four stage wins and a one-two result earlier this week, the final results saw Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist bring their RS Q e-tron home in 9th outright – literally putting the icing on the cake for team Audi Sport with the top 10 result.

Only three places behind, Carlos Sainz and his co-driver, Lucas Cruz, wrapped up another outstanding Dakar, the pair responsible for the RS Q e-tron’s first-ever stage victory, which they backed up with another stage win only days ago.

Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger fought back from a terrible run of bad luck very early in the rally that saw them relegated to the back of the pack, but the man they call Mr Dakar, never relented, and fought back to the very end, narrowly missing a victory on the final stage to come just 49 seconds behind the stage winner in second. Their final position of 58 did not reflect the way the Frenchmen competed right up to the final flag, not only winning a stage outright, but also sacrificing his own position on several occasions to assist their teammates in the field with running repairs to their own vehicles.

“Audi has lived up to its pioneering role in the Dakar Rally right from the start,” said an ecstatic Oliver Hoffmann, Audi Board Member for Technical Development at the completion of the race. “The alternative drive concept of the Audi RS Q e-tron has met all expectations with its electric drivetrain, high-voltage battery and highly efficient energy converter.”

With a complete development time of just over a year from concept to competition, the RS Q e-tron made history as the first representatives of a new class of racing – the new T1 Ultimate class for low-emission vehicles – but from the outset was in the hunt in the outright cars category. To be ready to compete in such short order time was extraordinary, but to then go on to achieve stage victories, podiums and ultimately record a top 10 finish seemed against the odds.

“With our engineers, we improved the set-up of the car more and more over the course of the rally,” said Carlos Sainz, who has himself won Dakar three times. That constant fine tuning seeing the three Audis go from strength to strength particularly in the second week of the event where they were never off the pace. 

Ironically it was the Audi driver pairing with the least desert experience that finished highest for Audi Sport, Mattias Ekström and co-driver Emil Bergkvist working their way up from 23rd to ninth position outright, recording a stage win and two other top three results along the way.

“The dunes remain my big challenge,” Ekström said at the finish. “Stéphane and Carlos have many years of experience advantage there. I always stayed on the safe side and didn’t attack too hard.” 

Nevertheless, Ekström’s ‘cautious’ approached netted an incredible result, and in only his second Dakar, promises big things from the Swede in the future.

The man responsible for motorsport at Audi, Julius Seebach, was understandably thrilled with the result at the end of the two, long weeks of competition.

“Our driver teams won four stages and clinched a total of 14 podium results in the daily classifications. This clearly exceeds our expectations for the first Dakar participation,” he said.

“After this performance already in the first year, overall victory at the next Dakar is clearly our goal. Back in Germany, we’ll take stock and further optimise our Audi RS Q e-tron.”

The Dakar Rally may be over for 2022, but the result represents the beginning of a new motorsport era for the Audi brand.

Watch the highlights from the final special stage here.