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The challenge of winning the Dakar with an electric car

At the rate that society, mobility, the automobile industry and motor sports evolve, the Dakar assumes its role as a media catapult with a major challenge in the test that begins this Saturday, January 1 and ends on the 14th. an electric car with aspirations to reign. An ocean liner like Audi lands on the sand in the star sign. Newcomer and main protagonist, since he has hired Carlos Sainz (winner of three editions with three different brands) and the 'Mr. Dakar', Stephane Peterhansel, fourteen titles in the backpack, to drive a prototype that seems to have come from so far away, of a future to come. Audi RSQ e-tron, that's how the model called to revolutionize the technical regulations of the race was baptized, the first step towards an unstoppable technology that relieves the lungs of the planet.

Carlos Sainz is presented with a level challenge at 59 years old. “You cannot be finished with that age,” he commented in an interview with ABC, and perhaps because of those gray hair that are able to decipher whether a car is fast or not the first time, the Madrilenian assumes a hieroglyph that has not admitted doubts . Every second of evolution of the Dakarian Audi has meant a decision by the driver in a specific direction, with no margin for error due to lack of time. «It is to achieve something that nobody has achieved» , says Sainz.

The appearance of the Audi RSQ e-tron is imposing, as was stated in the presentation of the car in autumn at the Madrid headquarters of the brand. A vehicle that causes instant attraction for its futuristic design and that interior manned by batteries and that moves with electrical energy. Audi has put together all its experiences in motor racing (Formula E –electric–, Endurance and DTM) to build a prototype that can withstand the onslaught of the dunes, the stones, the daily stages of 800 kilometers and two weeks of bustle in Saudi Arabia.

Futuristic prototype

The car is powered by two electric motors (similar to those in Formula E) that drive the wheels. And it also has a gasoline engine inside, which is responsible for producing electricity through an electric drive that acts as a kind of generator. “In the battery and in the energy management system lies the greatest potential for the development of electric mobility in general. What we learn from the demanding Dakar project we can apply to our future street cars », explains Stefan Dreyer, Head of Audi sports projects.

The vehicle is almost more a test laboratory for future technologies applied to the automobile than an archetype of competition. The key to the mission is whether the Audi will hold up to the Dakar without fail in its intricate interior of innovation and technology. The set of computer programs that links this world of components forces Audi to post an electronic engineer in the assistance unit who will accompany Sainz, Peterhansel and Ekstrom , the third member of the team.

Some details of the car are unique. In each braking, the electric motors recover energy and transform it into electricity for the battery. Technology similar to the Kers system, which was introduced in Formula 1 in 2009 and which recovered energy every time the drivers hit the brakes on the track.

Another remarkable aspect of the Audi that Carlos Sainz will drive is that it has no gear change. Like any automatic street car, drivers only have to worry about braking and accelerating, as well as steering and navigating without getting lost in the desert. In the presentation of the car, Carlos Sainz recalled that this would alleviate driving through the dunes , without gear changes and without the stress of the clutch.

There are 578 vehicles entered in the Dakar, a total of 1,065 participants including the contestants of the Dakar Classic, 81 of them Spanish, waiting for 4,258 timed kilometers, but the star of this edition is the Audi that is not even on the list favorites.

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