Check out Audi’s Dakar car for 2023 | Top Gear
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Check out Audi’s Dakar car for 2023

Meet the re-newed Audi RS Q e-tron : lighter, more aerodynamic, and more improved than last year. Can it win the Dakar?

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As you may have seen, Audi is heading back to the sandiest and longest racetrack in the world: the Dakar rally. And this time the brand with those famous four interlocking rings has got a real taste for the desert… and a new challenger: the latest iteration of its unique off-road racer, the futuristic RS Q e-tron. 

No longer rookies thanks to a year’s worth of Dakar experience and an Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge win under their belt, Audi Sport is more competitive and ready to go for this year’s race.  

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“We managed a good debut at the Dakar with the Audi RS Q e-tron and even achieved our first stage victories in a motorsport discipline that is new to us,” says Rolf Michl, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. “But the Dakar is the hardest race for both machine and people. Facing it with a completely new concept with an electrified drivetrain while battling navigation, weather and damages – is a historic chapter for Audi.”

As soon as Audi got back from last year’s race (and quite a few showers later), the team started scratching their heads to make this year’s car (a ridiculously complex off-road buggy with an alternative drive concept that blends a Formula E’s electric drivetrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from DTM to keep the battery topped-up) even faster. 

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“The RS Q e-tron is a blend of fine art and engineering,” says Stefan Dreyer, Head of Development at Audi Sport. “It is a perfect match of technology and brutality and special for us at Audi Sport as it’s so different to any other project we have done in the past.”

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‘Evolution not revolution’ was the mantra for the new car as the furiously complex drivetrain had no faults during its debut last year, proving that the car can finish the Dakar and be competitive. Even so, the whole car has been refined, made lighter and more aerodynamic. 

As you can see, the body is completely new and features significantly enhanced aerodynamics. It helps lower the prototype’s weight and center of gravity. To improve efficiency, there are a flurry of new operating strategies that benefit this complex car. Meanwhile, a load of ergonomic changes in the interior allow the dream team of drivers (Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz) and their co-drivers to navigate, change wheels and generally make the whole racing thing easier. 

The Audi Sport team is currently packing its bags and heading to the start line in a few weeks. Remember, the Dakar is a place where lap times are measured in weeks not minutes; an annual 6,000-mile off-road race and the ultimate test of how much a car and the human body can take. How does Audi think it’ll fair? Well, check out the video above to get a measure of its confidence. But we’ll leave the last words to Rolf Michl, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi.

“We wouldn’t be Audi Sport if we were there just to compete”

For more Audi performance stories, head this way

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