Let’s face it: this very much feels like it’s not the 1st of December, but rather the 1st of April. Seemingly out of nowhere, Audi has proclaimed its intention to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally, and that’s not even the weirdest part.
The last time the German manufacturer was involved in any type of rallying, we ended up with the famous Quattro model. It was the car that managed to convince everyone that four-wheel-drive was better than two-wheel-drive in this type of competition, and the world has rarely looked back on that ever since.
Now, the company is announcing its entry into the 2022 Dakar Rally, the world’s most infamous rally-raid challenge, and much like it did with the Quattro back in the ’80s, the vehicle Audi will use will try to bring new technology into the competition.
In what looks like an attempt to solidify its position in the emerging EV market and make a clear statement about its intent, Audi will race a battery-powered prototype in one of the most challenging series for vehicles, drivers, and their teams.
Like so many other carmakers, Audi is no stranger to using motorsport as a springboard for the technology used in its mass-produced, road-going models. The only reason we had so many diesel-powered cars winning at the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 2006 and 2009 was that Audi decided to use the R10 TDI to convince everyone diesel wasn’t just efficient and economical, but also reliable and quite powerful.
Now, it looks like the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer might try to do something similar for its foray into EVs using the Dakar Rally this time. However, the company’s racing prototype won’t be “green”. Since the daily stages of Dakar tend to exceed the maximum range EVs can achieve in racing conditions, the rough-terrain vehicle will use an on-board generator in the shape of a “highly efficient” TFSI engine.
The teaser image released by Audi reveals very little about the racing vehicle’s design, but we doubt it would be relevant to the company’s commercial models anyway. What we can see is that it has traditional wing mirrors, which is a bit odd considering Audi has cameras fitted on a production vehicle and not on an unregulated prototype.
Just like the sum of all vices has to be constant, so does Audi’s involvement in motorsport. The manufacturer is currently active in the Formula E series, but 2021 will be the last season Audi has a factory team presence. Instead, the Volkswagen Group member will switch its focus on the Dakar Rally after 12 wins in Formula E, the drivers’ title in 2017, and the teams’ title in 2018.
Audi says that by 2025, it expects 40 percent of the vehicles it sells to be either EVs or PHEVs, highlighting the importance of this technology for the German brand. “The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management and Board of Management Member for Technical Development and Product Lines at AUDI AG.
Well, between the announcement itself, Mr. Duesmann’s words, and the teaser image, one thing is clear: the 2022 Dakar Rally edition has just become a lot more exciting.