Audi has unveiled an all-star line-up ahead of its venture into rally-raid for the 2022 edition of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. The company showed off former winners Carlos Sainz Snr and Stéphane Peterhansel alongside Mattias Ekström in Audi’s hybrid 4×4 challenger. The Ingolstadt-based company will debut an electric powertrain in Saudi Arabia next January.
“It’s no exaggeration to speak of a ‘dream team’,” says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport. 14-time champion Peterhansel and three-time winner Sainz move over from X-Raid.
2022’s Dakar will see the part electrically-powered off-roader take on the world’s toughest race after being in the design phase for more than a year in collaboration with Q Motorsport. Former X-raid boss Sven Quandt heads the program.
Audi will use its DTM engines to augment the battery for charging the electric powertrains.
“You need a well-bonded team, a super reliable car and reliable driver teams. You can’t permanently drive at the limit in the Dakar Rally, says Quandt, team principal of Q Motorsport. “The right strategy is crucial. I’m very happy that we will have three renowned and strong teams competing for us. We know their qualities very well.”
Emil Bergkvist will join Ekström, Edouard Boulanger teams up with Peterhansel and Lucas Cruz will co-drive with Sainz in the event, which is set to take place from January 2 to 14, 2022.
Peterhansel headlines the star-studded driver line-up with 14 wins across the car (8) and bike (6) catergories, making him the most successful competitor in the Dakar’s history.
”The Dakar is one of the last adventures in this world. And it is on the verge of a radical change: the future is electric. In ten years, everyone will be driving electric cars. The Dakar is an extreme test for this technology. We want to be the first team to win the Dakar Rally with an electric powertrain,” the 55-year-old said.
Sainz, or ‘El Matador’ as he is known, adds another level of pedigree to the team with three Dakar victories in the car category, the most recent in 2020. The 59-year-old is also a two-time World Rally champion (1990, 1992). “Even at 59, I’m still hungry, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken on this new challenge,” says Sainz. “Even as a child, it was my dream to become a rally driver. My passion is unchanged.”
Swedish driver Mattias Ekström has extensive experience in circuit racing, winning the German Touring Car championship twice with Audi in 2004 and 2007.
The 42-year-old underlined his versatility by winning the World Rallycross Championship in 2016, as well as successful stints in the World Rally Championship. In 2021, he is competing for CUPRA in the new Extreme E electric off-road series.
Earlier this year, he also made his debut in the Dakar Rally.