Before participating in its first rally, the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 underwent rigorous testing in the sand dunes of Morocco in September 2022. All six drivers and co-drivers – Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist, Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger, as well as Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz – were present at the test.
“Our plan was to have nine test days so that each driver-co-driver pairing could work with the test vehicle for three days,” explains Arnau Niubó Bosch, Project Manager Track Operations, Audi. “There were two main goals: to develop the second evolution for the Dakar Rally and to familiarize the driver teams with the new developments. The weight reduction creates new possibilities for the chassis set-up, which we want to use. We’re moving in a good direction. The electric drive with all its systems also works more smoothly than in the test a year ago.”
“At almost 40°C, the temperatures are extreme and push the car, but also the crews, to their limits,” added Uwe Breuling, head of vehicle operations, Audi Sport. “Likewise, the test tracks are very brittle this year, which visibly puts an enormous strain on the technology. But there’s nothing that will stop the car, just minor damage that we need to repair.”
Having made a whole host of revisions to the prototype, all of the drivers and co-drivers were said to have been surprised by its lower overall weight. “Not only the weight, but also its distribution is more favorable now,” explained Sainz. “As a result, the car drifts less, it feels more agile and it’s easier to control.”
Peterhansel added, “When we drive through long, fast corners, there are fewer centrifugal forces. So, it’s much easier to stay on the inside of the corner. Likewise, our seating position is better than before.”
In addition to improving the RS Q e-tron E2 for drivers, Audi engineers also optimized the cockpit environment for the team’s co-drivers by regrouping various controls.
“We wanted to be able to operate the complex systems more easily,” explained Bergkvist. “This has been achieved well with the latest evolution. In some cases, the systems now respond to warnings without manual intervention.”
During testing in Morocco, the prototype completed 4,218km. When combined with the previous tests conducted in Europe, the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 has covered 6,424km so far.
In roughly two weeks’ time, Audi’s rally prototype will enter the Morocco Rally (October 1 to 6).