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

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Fourteen-time champion Stephane Peterhansel suffered huge suspension harm to his electrical Audi RS Q e-tron yesterday whereas operating second within the Dakar Rally. After ready practically 4 hours for a assist truck to reach, information reached the Audi group {that a} second RS Q-tron – this one pushed by World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (’90, ’92) – had gotten misplaced, including practically 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’d seem to be Audi had an actual shot at victory at this yr’s Dakar Rally. In any case, Audi is aware of methods 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 bought to drive via the Adirondacks final yr, and Audi’s entrepreneurs had hoped to leverage a powerful exhibiting at Dakar to promote much more e-trons (GTs, Q4s, and every part in between). To assist make sure that sturdy exhibiting, 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 have 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 bought 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 in all probability feels much less completely comprehensible, they each turn into extra comprehensible within the following context: this was by no means going to be simple.

The deck had been stacked in opposition to 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 automotive propelled solely by electrical energy (there is a 2.0-liter fuel engine on board, nevertheless it’s strictly a range-extender to be used on the longest Dakar levels, and doesn’t energy the wheels), it did so below the idea that the rules could be written in a manner that ensured its RS Q e-tron could be aggressive with the interior combustion engine (ICE) powered courses. From Audi’s viewpoint, that meant their vehicles could be allowed an on-board tire inflation system to assist tune the automotive’s dealing with on the fly and a bodily bigger chassis to permit for extra suspension journey and greater wheels in a bid to unfold out influence masses and extra simply cowl uneven terrain.

Audi didn’t get these lodging, which the ICE courses did get, and the challenge was on its again foot from then on. “What we will’t ignore is {that a} regulation that was going to provide precedence to those hybrid-electric engines (didn’t come to cross),” Sainz informed Motorsport.com, within the hours earlier than the rally. “Ultimately 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 challenge so much.”

We did “see this in a short time”, and – to followers of Audi’s motorsport program and electrical automobiles normally, it’s nearly painful to see it play out precisely the way in which 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, do not forget that Audi had arguably the very best 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 “honest and stage” rulebooks.

Perhaps – probably- I’m simply bitter.

In any occasion, there’s nonetheless hope of a high 10 end from the third Audi, piloted by Mattias Ekström (who, it needs to be famous, additionally bought misplaced, lacking the waypoint within the first stage), however much more hope that the teachings discovered immediately 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 challenge 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.”

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

Supply | Pictures: Audi, Dakar

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