Audi Is Leaving Formula E to Compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally With an EV Instead

The automaker might also be making a return to endurance prototype racing at venues like Daytona and Le Mans.

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Audi Is Leaving Formula E to Compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally With an EV Instead © Audi Is Leaving Formula E to Compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally With an EV Instead

Audi, a company that can trace its roots to road racing and later on made a big splash in the off-road/rallying scene, is making a return to both disciplines of the sport as part of some big changes to the German automaker's racing initiatives over the next couple of years.

The company officially announced on Monday that it will no longer have a factory team competing in Formula E, but instead will enter the famous Dakar Rally in 2022 with an all-electric "innovative prototype" as teased by the design sketch shown above. It has also officially announced that it's working on a return to sportscar endurance racing in the LMDh prototype category of the FIA's World Endurance Championship (WEC).

The electric Dakar competitor is said to use an electric powertrain running off of a high-voltage battery which itself can be charged on-the-fly thanks to an energy converter hooked up to an internally-combusted TFSI engine. So, not exactly pure electric but rather an electric drivetrain with a gas-powered range extender. At any rate, it'll apparently make Audi the first OEM to compete in Dakar with an "alternative" powertrain.

The company would also like us to remind everybody that it's done something similar before in the form of running the first-ever hybrid to win at Le Mans back in 2012 with the R18 E-tron, a car that also went on to win that race in 2013 and 2014.

Speaking of Le Mans, Audi is now working on returning to that arena as well, but the timing and specifics remain vague with the company merely saying that it's "intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours." This will allegedly involve a return to America's WeatherTech Sportscar Championship in the prototype category, though again, details are vague.

We'll forgive anyone who hasn't really noticed, but Audi has already found success racing electric vehicles in Formula E with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team racking up 43 podiums and 12 victories over six years, as well as a drivers' title in 2017 and a teams' title in 2018. While that factory team will no longer be a thing after the next year's season, said electric powertrains will still be available for customer teams beyond 2021.

Similar to most manufacturer racing initiatives, the goal of Audi's move to e-Dakar is to have a testbed on which to eventually make its road-going electric tech better. The luxury carmaker says 40 percent of all the cars it sells are expected to be all-electric or plug-in hybrid by as early as 2025.

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