Audi Sport has won the 2024 edition of the Dakar Rally, a grueling, two-week-long race that takes competitors across some of the toughest terrains on the planet. Spanish pilot Carlos Sainz drove the winning car, and this marks the fourth time he finished the rally in first place.
Held in Saudi Arabia, this year's Dakar started in Al-'Ula on January 5 and ended in Yanbu on January 19. About 220 miles separate the two cities if you take the most direct route, but the participants had logged about 4,900 miles by the time they crossed the finish line — assuming they got there. Finishing the rally is something to be proud about, even for professionals, so winning represents a significant achievement.
Sainz, co-pilot Lucas Cruz, and their RS Q E-Tron conquered massive dunes, rocky roads, and vast stretches of empty desert to finish the race with an 80-minute lead over the Toyota team that finished in second place. While the RS, Q, and E-Tron nameplates likely ring a bell, this isn't an ordinary SUV. It's a purpose-designed off-roader powered by a series-hybrid drivetrain that consists of a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine sourced from Audi's now-shuttered DTM program, a 52-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and three electric motors borrowed from the brand's Formula E car and modified for rallying. The turbo-four essentially serves as a generator: It creates electricity that gets sent to the battery and used to zap the four wheels into motion. Audi quotes a 0-to-62 mph time of 4.5 seconds on loose ground.
Giniel de Villiers and co-pilot Dennis Murphy took second place in a GR DKR Hilux Evo prototype, while Sébastien Loeb and co-pilot Fabian Lurquin finished third in a Prodrive Hunter. Dakar isn't only about cars: Motorcycles, massive trucks, and side-by-sides are eligible to race as well. American pilot Ricky Brabec notably took first in the bike category by finishing in 51 hours and 30 minutes on his Honda CRF450 Rally.
Time will tell whether Audi will return to the Dakar Rally in 2025 to defend its title; rumors claim the brand won't race again, but nothing is official at this stage. If it comes back, it will need to fend off competition from at least two new factory-backed teams: Ford and Dacia.
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