Evolution is so key to rally success that one of the most famous WRC cars ever has the word in its name. And Mitsubishi made 10 of them. The constant fettling here and tinkering there is what keeps racing cars at their best, and apparently that’s not going to change in the electrified era, as here (already) is the E2 version of the Audi RS Q e-tron.
Rally aficionados will recognise E2 from the Sport Quattro era, when a raft of improvements was thrown at the five-cylinder coupe in an attempt to keep up with the Peugeot 205 T16 - 550hp and 1100kg was the result. Using it for the RS Q e-tron isn’t just cashing in on the heritage either, as this is a wholesale rework of the Dakar racer (because a best place of ninth in the 2022 Dakar, hours behind the winning Hilux, probably wasn’t in the plan).
Consequently, the E2 doesn’t share a single body panel with the original RS Q e-tron, with a focus on shedding weight, improving aero and lowering the centre of gravity. It’s said that changes such as new front and rear ‘hoods’, a tapered design for the rear deck and removing some body parts altogether should reduce drag by 15 per cent. Improved airflow reduces the energy requirements placed on the batteries and motor, too.
Speaking of which, the powertrain has been modified as well, albeit less drastically. The power controllers in charge of marshalling the output of the DTM engine (that acts as a range extender), high voltage battery and four electric motors have been fine-tuned to keep the e-tron in line with FIA regs on excess energy. But there have been no changes that would be familiar to traditional motorsport fans.
Still, power isn’t as crucial on the Dakar as dependability and user-friendliness, so the changes to the air-con for the E2 are probably just as important. Yes, seriously. Audi says the AC was too good beforehand (basically), and froze the coolant as it was always running at its maximum. A new intermittent mode will save energy while keeping interior temperature for the teams - Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist, Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz - somewhere near acceptable.
They’ll be operating in a new interior with this updated RS Q e tron as well, said to benefit from ‘restructured’ displays and controls. “The totality of all the functions quickly creates confusion,” said Florian Semlinger, one of Audi’s software development engineers. “That’s why, for the first time, the driver and co-driver can now select from four system areas using a rotary switch.”
The “Stage” theme contains all the functions that are important while driving competitively – such as the speed limiter in sections with speed limits or the air jack. The “Road” part contains, for example, turn signals and the rear-view camera, functions that are often in demand on the liaison stages. The “Error” option is used to detect, categorize and catalogue errors. The “Settings” section includes everything that is useful for the engineering team during testing or after the car arrives at the bivouac, for example, detailed temperatures of individual systems.” Crumbs. To think you’re meant to be racing while dealing with these menus. And this is the new, improved, less complicated version…
With more easily changeable wheels (with flat body parts that come off more simply) as well, all the upcoming rallies for the E2 ought to be a walk in the park. “Our development team’s determined and cost-efficient work has prepared us perfectly for our second Dakar Rally” added Uwe Breuling, Audi Sport’s Head of Vehicle Ops. There’s plenty to go ahead of next year’s Middle Eastern extravaganza, however, with the Morocco Rally coming up next month. If the E2 is competitive there, perhaps it’ll have a better shot at Dakar glory come January.
1 / 10