Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally
Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally | Foto: Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally

Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally

Por: Diego Cerón

15, November, 2022 en Sports Mode

⦁ Nothing can replace experience and kilometers

⦁ Good team spirit after debut season and before 2nd Dakar Rally

⦁ New rules and challenges for 2023

Newburgh A. IE. Danube, November 8, 2022 – The 2023 Dakar Rally is less than eight weeks away. Audi continues to rely on its strong line-up of Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist, Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz. The expectations of the six drivers and co-drivers for the Desert Classic were more relaxed and better prepared than they were a year ago, but also full of anticipation and respect.

Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally
Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally

Every kilometer counts

At the Morocco Rally in October, the trio of Audi Sport drivers had a great opportunity to get back into the rhythm of the race. Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger have covered the most kilometers so far this year. After the Dakar Rally in January, they took part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge together and scored the Audi RS Q e-tron its first victory there. The tests in Europe and Africa are followed by the Morocco Rally. Mattias Ekström feels an old experience is confirmed there: “The course of a race is different from a test, where you keep coming back to the pits. In the desert, you’re on your own. That helps.” Two Swedes Taking the final step at the Morocco Rally. “It ‘clicked’ and we understood what the creators of the road manual had in mind,” says Emil Bergkvist. “Since then Mathias and I have understood it better and rally driving is more fun.”


Grown team, good cohesion

Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz as well as Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger had known the Q Motorsport team before Audi started its rally program. Sven Quandt’s experienced team has been participating in desert rallies for almost 30 years, winning the Dakar Rally six times and winning cross-country rallies several times. The team from Trebur deployed all three Audi RS Q e-trons together with the Audi Sport team. A good relationship in the cockpit of the three prototypes was a prerequisite for success. “I trust my co-driver a lot, we have won three Dakars together. We help each other,” stressed Carlos Sainz, who is running the Dakar for the 11th time with Lucas Cruz. His co-pilot added: “The communication with Carlos was excellent. We have a strong partnership, good spirits”. Stéphane Peterhansel, a 14-time Dakar winner and a competitor since 1988, last won the classic in 2021 with co-driver Edouard Boulanger ) partner. Mattias Ekström, two-time DTM champion and Rallycross world champion, is an experienced and successful racer who treats other drivers with respect and good humor. “I can only learn from the two of them,” said the Swede. “Carlos was ambitious, emotional and full of energy. I learned everything else from Stéphane: he was just as successful, but more composed, calm and strategic. They were the two coolest teammates of my career ” His compatriot and co-pilot Emil Bergkvist added: “We learned a lot from Edward and Lucas. They welcomed us with open arms. We asked them what we could do. Without them, we would never have gotten to the This step.”

Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally
Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally


Mastering technology

With the RS Q e-tron, Audi has implemented an innovative concept for the most demanding motorsports in a very short time. Carlos Sainz, always a driver and technical perfectionist as two-time World Rally Champion and three-time Dakar champion, praised his employer: “We told Audi: Don’t underestimate the Dakar. They didn’t underestimate the It. They believed in the direction in which we drivers wanted to take the project. The success so far has proven us right. It’s the right approach for both parties.” Audi Sport set the first milestone on this path: in January at the Four stage wins at the Kar Rally, an overall win at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in March, and September. “The new car is a big step forward in terms of reliability,” said Carlos Sainz. “But our sport will always have surprises, including technical ones.” Repairs are therefore sometimes unavoidable in the tough off-road rallies – from tire damage to accident damage and possible defects. “Stéphane supported me very well when it came to maintenance,” says Edouard Boulanger. “He comes from motorcycle racing and knows how to use the tools. As an engineer, I have a basic overview, but Stéphane can help me perfectly.” But not only the two Frenchmen know how to master these tasks. Audi Sport’s extensive technical training for all six drivers and co-drivers completed preparations in November.


New challenges

Changes for the 2023 Dakar Rally include a new format on the stages: the neutral zone, which previously featured a 15- to 20-minute break, is now a thing of the past. Mattias Ekström emphasizes: “Without these split times on the road, we would no longer know exactly where we stand compared to our competitors.” For Carlos Sainz, it was a feeling of déjà vu:“ It’s like stepping back in time, because that used to be normal. Basically, we could tell the speed of a direct competitor who was three minutes ahead or behind us by whether or not one car was catching up to the other.” Another challenge: Dune The proportion of channels will increase significantly in 2023. “It’s easier for me to drive on the dunes,” says Edouard Boulanger. “I don’t have to give my driver as much directions. Navigation should be easier too. But on the other hand, because the car has been bumping up and down, physical exertion has increased significantly. His driver was also looking forward to Sand Hill: “I’m happy to be back in the open for four days. It will be a very real Dakar. Carlos Sainz highlighted another aspect. “The event has changed a lot in the last three years,” commented the Spaniard. “Now that the hidden waypoints have been eliminated, we can more accurately Follow compass directions. The open field is going to be tough, but Lucas and I are prepared. “But there’s also a lack of reference lines for other competitors in the dunes,” Cruz suggested. Driving in a straight line through the chain of dunes is not easy as it requires a specific direction. ” No matter how tough the stage, everyone agrees on one thing. “With such a powerful air conditioning system in the Audi RS Q e-tron, the temperature is easy to manage,” says Stéphane Peterhansel, speaking on behalf of his colleagues.

Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally
Audi drivers well prepared for Dakar Rally

Well set-up towards the desert

Teams of drivers put the finishing touches on the highly efficient RS Q e-tron with electric drive and energy converter at the Morocco Rally. Stéphane Peterhansel: “Now the pedal box is positioned more comfortably and the steering wheel is perfectly positioned.” Edouard Boulanger is also delighted: “The software logic is better and frequently used functions are easier and faster to access.” Co-pilot colleague Lucas Cruz Also benefiting from his new workplace: “The changed seating position gives us a better overview and makes it easier to read the gauges.” Mattias Ekström, on the other hand, was impressed by his teammates’ off-road knowledge: “Carlos designed the Top notch basic chassis setup. Thanks to Stéphane putting the finishing touches, the car gave me even more confidence. Everything is already perfect in the corners and now the rear end doesn’t lift as much even on jumps .”


Personal preparation and expectations

“We are well prepared this year,” admits Stéphane Peterhansel. “We should drive consistently, not too slow or you will fall behind. At the same time, I know what happens in Dakar. We have a competitive car, but there is also a lot of competition.” Carlos Se Enns agrees: “You have to respect every day. I’m looking forward to a tough Dakar with longer stages, more time in the cockpit, lots of variety.” Be cautious about the length of the race. With our innovative ideas, we have limited energy supplies and we have to slow down.” Lucas Cruz recalled the days when rallies traveled across South America. “Because of the difficulty of the open stage, we did an extra fitness session,” said the Spaniard. Emil Bergkvist took part in the rally with great expectations: “It’s a pleasure to be part of this team. If you want something, they will do it for you. It makes us feel good.” His driver, Mattias Ekström, puts a lot of emphasis on personal preparation : “I can’t drink that much during the day, but I can’t lose weight. That’s why I’m carrying a scale with me this time to check my fluid balance. In the time leading up to the rally, the following applies: eat right, get enough sleep, Drink plenty of water and exercise. Once the rally starts, we try to match our pace with Stéphane’s. Few motorsports do more. We do everything we can. Audi fulfilled all our wishes, There’s nothing else on Santa’s list.”