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Audi improves RS Q e-tron rally car for its third Dakar Rally

Audi has improved the RS Q e-tron rally car once again. (Earlier post.) Ahead of its third outing in the Dakar Rally, the rally car with its electric drivetrain featuring a high-voltage battery and energy converter has received multiple innovative upgrades. The new ideas make the RS Q e-tron safer, more reliable, more comfortable and a little lighter, as well as having shorter maintenance times for the team.

Audi Sport has analyzed the previous outings, identified weak points and set clear priorities for further development. Dr. Leonardo Pascali, the project’s new Technical Director, has focused on five key topics with his development team since early summer 2023.


1. Safety: Continued improvements on a high level. The accidents of Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz at the 2023 Dakar Rally have prompted Audi to improve safety yet again.

Our goal was to reduce the peak vertical acceleration during landings after big jumps.

—Dr. Pascali

By working with the springs, dampers and the bump stop in the chassis, the engineers have better distributed some of the load over time. This enables optimal control of the platform, which is vital for overall performance.

A second contributing factor comes from the foam in the seats, which helps to distribute loads on the driver and co-driver over a longer period of time and thus reduce peak loads. The development engineers have specifically focused on the material stiffness and geometries of the foam in the seats, taking into consideration how cockpit temperatures influence the stiffness of the foam.

The protection of the occupants after a hard frontal landing of the vehicle, like Carlos Sainz’s second accident at the 2023 Dakar Rally, which ended up with the car rolling over, was also on the minds of those responsible. Absorbing energy generated during such events better than before, the carbon-fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) crash box at the front end of the chassis structure is now longer without compromising the angle of attack, which is crucial in cross-country rallying. It now absorbs the energy generated during such accidents better than before.

2. Reliability: Clever details for the big picture. The Audi RS Q e-tron is a very reliable race car, even in the toughest conditions: All three cars saw the finish line at their first Dakar Rally event in 2022. The fact that two of the three cars did not finish in 2023 was not due to technical issues, but to accidents.

As the complex drivetrain technology is basically mature, Audi Sport can concentrate on details in terms of reliability. Previously, penetrating stones got caught between the rim bed, brake disc and upright. In some cases, they caused considerable damage and necessitated time-consuming wheel changes on more than one occasion. New fastening elements for the uprights allow greater clearance so that the stones are thrown out more easily, and Audi Sport is now using more robust rims. Stronger sidewalls also make the new generation of tires, from the control tire supplier BF Goodrich, less vulnerable.

3. Comfort: Better sealing for higher concentration. Audi relies on particularly experienced, well-coordinated and high-performing drivers and co-drivers. To make their strenuous work easier, the engineers optimized the acoustic shielding of the RS Q e-tron, as well as sealing the cockpit. A modified front bonnet now better repels mud and water, allowing the windshield to remain cleaner.

4. Performance: Ideas in many areas. From the chassis to the software, from the body to the electric drivetrain, engineers looked at various aspects to make the Audi RS Q e-tron even more competitive within the framework of the regulations. Working with the shock absorbers and springs helped the team to find an even better set-up.

To get closer to the minimum weight of 2,100 kilograms while the weight of the new, more robust tires increases, various components have been optimized in terms of weight. This applies to the rear bonnet, as well as the smaller brake calipers, but also to the footrest for the co-driver.

The regulations also slightly shift the balance between Audi’s T1U model and the opponents in the T1 class in terms of power-to-weight ratio: The 263 kW of maximum output from the electric motors at the start of the 2023 season (including the efficiency coefficient) turned into a value of 271 kW during the Dakar Rally, following a change in the regulations. As of January 2024, the figure will rise to 286 kW. At the same time, the regulations raise the weight of the opponents’ T1 models by 10 to 2,010 kilograms.

5. Maintenance times: Shorter work, better result. In its search for improvements, the Audi Sport development team also examined the daily maintenance work during rally events. Thanks to many practical ideas in this area, quite a few steps have been simplified. For example, modified bolted connections, improved tool holders, optimized filling cap devices for operating fluids, new locking solutions for body parts and bolted instead of glued connections all contribute to simpler and faster servicing.

Since the middle of 2023, Audi has successively incorporated the changes and begun testing them, ensuring the incorporation of these innovations in time for the 2024 Dakar Rally.


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