While Volkswagen has announced they are pulling the plug on their motorsport involvement, stablemates Audi are pushing on with a fresh challenge which will see them take on one of the greatest challenges in motorsport – the Dakar Rally.
The goal has been set to join the 2022 edition of the epic off road adventure with an innovative prototype that features an alternative drive concept combines an electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter.
“A multifaceted commitment to motorsport is and will remain an integral part of Audi’s strategy,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board of Management and Board of Management Member for Technical Development and Product Lines at AUDI AG.
“We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars. The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”
This isn’t Audi’s first foray into the world of off road, 1981 saw the Audi Quattro change the face of rallying. Four-wheel drive is a permanent fixture in today’s ecosystem, which has seen the German manufacturer feature it on their sportiest Audi production models, and now also electrically in the e-tron models.
Taking on the extreme conditions the vehicle will be driven by a powerful electric drivetrain.
Along with the new drivetrain, the vehicle will feature a high-voltage battery, which can be charged as required while driving via an energy converter in the form of a highly efficient TFSI engine.
Audi will be using this programme to aid the development of their electric drivetrain and batter in the future, with technology and development eventually making its way on to production models.
Trailblazing in alternative drivetrains across motorsport
Audi is the first manufacturer to commit to developing a viable alternative drive concept for the Dakar Rally. In 2012 the brand achieved the first victory of a hybrid racing car in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro would go on to win the endurance classic three times in a row.
Since 2014 Audi have been involved in Formula E supporting longstanding partner ABT Sportsline. In 2017 the team turned in to a full factory effort, and after six seasons the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team is the most successful entry in the history of Formula E with a total of 43 podium finishes, including twelve victories.
“Formula E has accompanied the transformation phase at Audi,” says Markus Duesmann. “Today, electromobility at the four rings is no longer a dream of the future, but the present.”
“This is why we are taking the next step in electrified motorsport by facing the most extreme conditions. The many technical freedoms offered by the Dakar Rally provide a perfect test laboratory for us in this respect.”
While off road fans will welcome the news, fans of the Formula E series will be disappointed as the new programme replaces their factory efforts in the open-wheel series after the 2021 season.
A newly developed Audi powertrain for customer teams will remain available beyond the next year.
Customer-focused efforts important for Audi
With Audi heading to Dakar and returning to endurance racing, AUDI AG will also continue to offer its comprehensive customer racing programme which will see the Audi R8 LMS feature in major endurance races like the Nürburgring 24 Hours and international racing series such as the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
“In addition, we are evaluating other possible fields of activity for us in international motorsport,” says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH.
“In doing so, we have our customers’ wishes in mind as much as the company’s future strategy, which is clearly focused on electrification and carbon-neutral mobility. This is why we are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours. The most important message for our fans is that motorsport will continue to play an important role at Audi.”
On 1 December Julius Seebach took over the responsibility for Audi’s international motorsport activities n addition to his function as Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH.
The former head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass will move on to new projects following the successful conclusion of the factory involvement in the DTM.