The covers have yet to come off Audi’s Le Mans car but it will be a petrol-electric hybrid. Picture: SUPPLIED
The covers have yet to come off Audi’s Le Mans car but it will be a petrol-electric hybrid. Picture: SUPPLIED

Having won the Le Mans 24 Hour and Formula E in recent years, Audi is turning its motor racing attention to the Dakar Rally.

The German brand will make its debut in the world’s most gruelling off-road race in 2022, marking a return to rallying, which marked the beginning of Audi’s successful history in motorsport with the legendary Audi quattro of the early 1980s.

Rallying was a testing ground for permanent four-wheel drive which is now a standard not only for rally cars but also in many of Audi’s roadgoing vehicles, including the electrically-powered e-tron models.

The Audi prototype to race in the Dakar Rally will combine an electric drivetrain with a TFSI petrol-turbo engine, making it the first hybrid-powered car to compete in the annual cross-country race.

It follows Audi achieving the first victory of a hybrid car in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2012 with the R18 e-tron quattro, which remained unbeaten three times in a row. Since 2014 Audi has successfully competed in fully-electric racing with Formula E, winning the 2017 drivers’ title and 2018 teams’ title.

Audi will quit Formula E at the end of next year and cross-country rallying will be the spearhead of the factory motorsport commitment in the future, says Audi CEO Markus Duesmann.

“We want to continue demonstrating the brand’s slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in international top-level motorsport in the future and develop innovative technologies for our road cars. The toughest rally in the world is the perfect stage for this.”

Formula E has accompanied the transformation phase to electromobility at Audi, and by 2025 about 40% of sales are expected to be electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, he says. The Dakar Rally provides a perfect test laboratory for these vehicles.

Audi will also compete in the new LMDh sports prototype category in the World Endurance Championship with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours.

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