Motorsport has been struggling with the arrival of electric cars for years. Fans are loudly defending themselves, the organizers do not want to upset them, but they are also looking for a common path with car manufacturers, which see a clear direction in electricity. The result is so far unsalted. Electric cars usually compete in their own categories, because they cannot compete in weight and range, especially in longer races.
But even that is changing, and the revolutionary is Audi – the same carmaker that started winning the diesel’s most famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006. Unprecedented until then. This year, the Germans have targeted the most famous long-distance rally, the ongoing Dakar. They brought with them a futuristic monster named Audi RS Q e-tron.
According to the acronym, experts already know that it is an electric car. Dakar experts do not believe and do well, because it is definitely not an electric car that takes all the energy from the batteries. This one makes it on board by burning gasoline…
The Dakar e-tron has a decade of development, is equipped with a pair of electric motors from Formula E, the mentioned internal combustion engine comes from the DTM racing special. The joke is that this turbocharged four-cylinder TSI will operate monotonously in the effective range of 4500 to 6000 revolutions. This system also has a battery, a capacity of 50 kWh, weighs 370 kilograms, is charged at the beginning of the stage, then is supplemented by an internal combustion engine and energy recovery during braking.
What does such a gasoline monster sound like? Here the e-tron is following the scared Ford of the Czech racer Martin Prokop. If you listen well, you will hear both an electric whistle and the muffled running of an internal combustion engine:
The power of the whole complex system is estimated at 500 kW (but it depends on the specific situation). The weight of the car is estimated at two tons, but the carmaker did not publish exact data. But the key question is – can something so complicated and difficult succeed against the years-proven concept with an internal combustion engine?
Yes and no
Audi would not come to the Dakar if it was not sure of the potential of its car. But everything still had to be tested in practice. The aces would be behind the wheel – Stéphane Peterhansel is a 14-time Dakar winner, ex-WRC World Champion Carlos Sainz has won the Dakar twice, the trio is joined by a rallycross world champion, a two-time DTM champion and race champion Mattias Ekström.
Peterhansel, Sainz, Ekström. Even the brightest stars will not guarantee success.
The very first day brought disaster. Peterhansel solved the chassis problems, Sainz and Ekström lost after navigational errors. The good news for Audi was hard to find, but at least the powertrain seemed to work. The second stage was better: Sainz third, Peterhansel fourth, Ekström seventh. And in the third stage it came, Carlos Sainz won.
Now the Dakar is in the middle and it is already clear that Audi will not win the overall classification this year. After six stages, Ekström is the best – 14th overall, with an abysmal loss approaching three hours. Failure? Audi definitely wanted to repeat the 16-year-old LeMans revolution. He will have to settle for stage successes, gain experience and return even stronger in a year…