“By cooperating with Q Motorsport, we are sticking to our philosophy that has proven itself at Audi over many years,” says Julius Seebach, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and responsible for motorsport at Audi. “The development of the Dakar prototype with its innovative drivetrain concept is being carried out in-house. We are contesting the race together with an experienced partner. The Q Motorsport team contributes an enormous amount of specific experience from rally raids.”
Q Motorsport GmbH was founded by Sven Quandt and his two sons Thomas and Tobias Quandt. As a driver, Sven Quandt won the T1 Marathon Cup in 1998. In the same year, his team GECO Raid celebrated a 1-2-3 victory in the T1 classification of the Paris–Dakar Rally. From November 2002 to the end of 2004, Quandt was the head of motorsport at Mitsubishi Motors. At the same time, he began to build up the X-raid Team, which has celebrated six victories in the Dakar Rally and also won the FIA World Cup for cross-country rallies eleven times.
“With Q Motorsport, we want to break new ground in rally raid motorsport independently of and parallel to the X-raid Team,” says Sven Quandt. “The world is changing and the Dakar Rally must also prove that it can be sustainable and continue to point the way forward. This is exactly what Q Motorsport wants to demonstrate together with Audi.”
“Audi has always chosen new, bold paths in racing, but I think this is one of the most complex cars that I have ever seen,” says Quandt. “The electric drivetrain means that a lot of different systems have to communicate with each other. Besides reliability, which is paramount in the Dakar Rally, that’s our biggest challenge in the coming months.”
Quandt compares Audi’s Dakar project to the first moon landing: “Back then, the engineers didn’t really know what was coming. It is similar for us. If we finish the first Dakar event, that’s already a success.”
For Sven Quandt, the Dakar Rally is one of the biggest challenges there are in motorsport – and it is the best test for technologies that are suitable for everyday use. “You have all of the things that also matter in a production vehicle: different terrains, tough conditions, high and low temperatures, rain, sun and many kilometres driven per day. The Dakar is the best test: if the technology can survive the Dakar, it will be successful everywhere.”
Audi Sport has brought a lot of expertise from circuit racing and Le Mans to the partnership with Q Motorsport. “In some areas, the Audi RS Q e-tron is more a car for circuit racing,” says Quandt. “The question is: what can you bring from circuit racing into a rally raid car? What is the best compromise? We are both learning from each other.”
The biggest unknown for the successful Dakar team principal is the electronics. “Everyone knows how often you have to restart a computer,” says Quandt. “The car is very complex with all of its components. They all have to communicate with each other. It’s like putting twelve people in a room, each speaking a different language, but all of them are supposed to be working on the same task. There are incredibly large amounts of data exchanged between the individual components. From MGU to MGU, from the battery to the motors and also from the energy converter. That makes it very difficult. We can change and repair components. If there is a software problem, the drivers have no chance. That’s why we are building as much redundancy into the car as possible.”
The drivers and co-drivers will be prepared for the special features of the electric drivetrain during special training camps, just like the mechanics and technicians. During the rally itself in January, additional engineers will be on site to take special care of the electric drivetrain and software.
Quandt knows: “You can have the fastest car, but you still won’t win the Dakar if the reliability is not there. To win, you first have to finish. In our project, it’s all about getting there first. We have to ignore the rest for the time being.”
“The whole team is extremely motivated,” says Quandt. “They can hardly wait for it to begin. They are looking forward to it just like children look forward to their new toys. Everyone wants to do their part to make this project successful.”
Quandt himself is also looking forward to working with Audi. “I am 65,” he says. “Not many dare to take on a challenge again at this age. I think it’s cool to be part of something completely new. With this project, we have the chance to change the technology for future production vehicles. We want to prove what is possible with this technology in the Dakar Rally.”