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Audi is anticipating fresh challenges as well as opportunities for the all-electric RS Q e-tron as it heads for the soft sands of Abu Dhabi.

28 Feb 2022 | International News : United Arab Emirates


After its debut with four stage victories at the Dakar Rally in January, the Audi RS Q e-tron is facing its next challenge: From 6 to 10 March 2022, the electric off-roader will contest the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

With five stages in the Al Dhafra region on the southern border with Saudi Arabia, the rally is much shorter than the season opener nine weeks earlier in the neighbouring country. The daily stages are between 217km and 318km long and add up to 1,342km. With a total rally distance of 1,933km including liaison stages, the proportion of timed kilometres is very high at 69%.

Stephane Peterhansel will be joining this year's event after having already won it seven times
Despite the compact overall format, Stephane Peterhansel is by no means underestimating this event. "Experience shows that around 80% of the route of this rally is in large dune mountains, the remaining 20% on flatter sandy ground without any tracks. At the Dakar, there were at most 60km of dunes at a stretch," says the professional driver. "Likewise, the heat is higher now than in January."

This poses new challenges for Audi and its team partner Q Motorsport. For the first time, the RS Q e-tron has to prove itself permanently in temperatures that have not previously been encountered in the Dakar Rally. Secondly, warmer sand is always softer as well. Combined with the long dune passages, this factor causes a significant increase in energy consumption. "Our energy systems performed very well in January. The tasks in Abu Dhabi are a clear increase," says Peterhansel.

Audi also expects cars to get stuck more easily in soft sand. However, on the often steep and long dune climbs, the Audi factory driver sees an advantage in the electric drive. "The dune crests are the most difficult: If you drive too slowly, you lose time or get stuck. If you're too fast, you risk jumping into the unknown," says Peterhansel. "With conventional rally cars, you always have to decide on a gear and can make a mistake. The continuously variable drive of the Audi RS Q e-tron on the other hand is perfect, as is the high torque."

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