Audi has completed its first test of the RS Q2 e-tron E2 with which it will take on next year’s Dakar Rally.
At last year’s event, the German marque made its first factory start on the Dakar since 1985 with the first generation RS Q e-tron, though repeated overheating and weight issues meant the highest placed example was that of Mattias Ekström in 9th, almost three minutes behind outright winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Earlier this month, Audi unveiled the RS Q2 e-tron E2, complete with hybrid powertrain and heavily revised bodywork, and has since completed the vehicle’s first test across 4,218 kilometres in Morocco, bringing the E2’s combined test mileage across North Africa and Europe up to 6,424 km.
Across nine days, works drivers Carlos Sainz, Stéphane Peterhansel and Ekström – together with co-drivers Lucas Cruz, Edouard Boulanger and Emil Bergkvist respectively – were afforded three days of testing apiece in 40-degree temperatures on the Moroccan dunes as Audi weighs up an optimized setup for next year’s Dakar, set to be held between New Year’s Eve and 15 January in Saudi Arabia.
Aside from “minor damage that [Audi] needs to repair,” Morocco proved a successful test not only for driver ergonomics – Sainz and Peterhansel were quick to compliment the E2’s increased agility, thanks largely to reduced weight and the more aerodynamic bodywork, as well as improved ergonomics in the cockpit – but also the improved efficiency of the powertrain. A significant reduction of “double surfaces” on the bodywork means greater areas of the E2 were now more accessible to Audi’s on-site team of mechanics and engineers, reducing the amount of time needed for maintenance and service.
“There were two main objectives: to develop the second evolution for the Dakar Rally and to familiarize the driver teams with the new developments,” track operations project leader Arnau Niubó Bosch explains. “The weight reduction creates new opportunities for suspension set-up, which we want to exploit. We are moving in a good direction. The electric drive with all its systems is also working more smoothly than at the test a year ago.
“The car feels very different from before. The lower weight means we can move a little more toward comfort in terms of damper set-up. That’s important when you spend as much time in the cockpit as we do and have to stay focused for hours.”
Following the Morocco test, Sainz, Peterhansel and Ekström will compete in the R2 Q2 e-tron’s first event, the Morocco Rally, on October 1-6.