How Audi has overhauled its Dakar Rally challenger for 2024

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The 45th edition of Dakar begins on 5 January and Audi will once again line up at Al-’Ula with a fleet of three cars, as it aims to become the first manufacturer to win the overall cars category with an electric-powered car.

Audi has gone to great lengths to improve the RS Q e-tron, despite its upcoming Formula 1 project with Sauber taking some resources away from its rally-raid programme.

Changes have been made in nearly every aspect, with the driver line-up the only that has remained stable in 2024 with Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Mattias Ekstrom all returning for another crack at the marathon.

“The fundamental capabilities of the RS Q e-tron have been demonstrated by our drivers and co-drivers with six stage victories and a further 22 podiums in the Dakar Rally since 2022,” said Rolf Michl, Head of Audi Motorsport. “Now it’s about showing our performances as consistently as possible, so that we can fight for the top positions.”

Audi Sport has analysed previous performances, identified weak points and set clear priorities for further development. Leonardo Pascali, the project’s new Technical Director, has been focusing on five key topics with his development team since the beginning of the summer.

To improve the performance, Audi has revised almost all components of the car, from the software to the chassis and from the bodywork to the transmission. After last year’s Dakar, the drivers had asked for more freedom on the set-up to improve the balance of the car. To meet this request, Audi’s development team worked on springs and shock absorbers for 2024.

That’s not all, because the RS Q e-tron has undergone a significant weight-trimming exercise in every component to get closer to the minimum limit of 2,100kg. That is despite the new competition tyres being heavier than their predecessors.

Audi has also worked on the rear bonnet, the co-driver’s platform as well as the brake calipers, which have become smaller than last year.

As per regulations, the minimum weight of T1 cars (the Toyota GR Hilux, for example) will increase to 2,010kg, making the RS Q e-tron more competitive in comparison. 

The power-to-weight ratio of Audi’s T1U cars compared to the T1s has also been changed. While at the beginning of 2023 the maximum power of electric motors was set at 271kW, it will increase to 286kW this year, a bump of 15kW.

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Audi RS Q e-tron

The Audi RS Q e-trons stopped multiple times during stages due to a variety of problems in the last two years. Although reliability of the car improved last year, the final result did not live up to initial expectations for multiple reasons, including accidents. That’s why Audi has worked hard to either reduce or eliminate potential dangerous situations that it encountered during the previous two editions of the rally-raid.

During the 2023 Dakar, Audi drivers were often forced to stop due to stones getting stuck between the struts, brake calipers and rims. This year, the fastening elements of the uprights have been changed and these allow for more free space, so as to expel the stones from that area more easily.

Work was also done on the rims, which have now become more robust at the sides to make the new-generation BF Goodrich less vulnerable.

The accidents that slowed down Sainz and Peterhansel in 2023 led Audi to continue working on safety.

Pascali explains: “Our goal was to reduce the peak vertical acceleration during landings after big jumps. 

“By working on the springs, shock absorbers and bump stops of the chassis, the engineers have better distributed part of the load over time. In this way it was possible to achieve optimal control of the platform, which is so important for the overall performance of the car.

“A second contributing factor is the foam of the seats. They help to distribute the loads on the driver and co-pilot over a longer period of time, thus reducing peak loads. The developers focused in particular on the stiffness of the materials and on the geometries of the seat foam, also taking into account how the cabin temperature influences the rigidity of the foam.

“Those responsible also thought about the protection of the occupants after an abrupt frontal landing of the vehicle, as in the case of Carlos Sainz’s second accident at the 2023 Dakar Rally, which ended with the car overturning. 

“The CFRP crash box at the front end of the chassis structure is now longer, without compromising the angle of attack, so important in cross-country rallies. It now absorbs the energy generated by these crashes better than before.”

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Audi RS Q e-tron

Another aspect that should help drivers improve performance and their driving is the work done by Audi engineers on acoustic shielding, cockpit waterproofing and, from an ergonomics point of view, the front bonnet.

The front bonnet has been redesigned to better repel mud and water. This should allow the drivers to have a cleaner windscreen during the various stages they will face in a few days, reducing danger and, if possible, improving their performance at the end of the stage.

Vehicle maintenance times
Improving the car is not just a question of performance and reliability, but also of the time dedicated to its maintenance. This is why Audi engineers spent considerable efforts in simplifying operations on the RS Q e-tron.

Bolted connections, tool holders, fluid filling devices, body locking solutions have all been modified to make it easier for mechanics and drivers (during marathon stages) to work on the cars.

“Our engineering team has further improved the RS Q e-tron with many creative solutions,” said Michl. “The drivers and co-drivers, as well as all the mechanics and engineers, benefit from imaginative ideas. We believe we are best prepared for the Dakar Rally.”

Audi has been trying these new solutions on the car since July of last year. Following six months of testing, these updates will be mounted on the race-ready version of all three RS Q e-trons as Sainz, Peterhansel and Ekstroem chase overall victory at the 2024 Dakar Rally.

Photo by: Audi

Audi RS Q e-tron


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