Sainz hits out at 100kg weight increase for Audi's Dakar contender

Carlos Sainz has expressed his frustration at the minimum weight of T1U cars being raised by 100kg for the 2023 Dakar Rally, saying rules are hurting electric cars such as the Audi.

Audi RS Q e-tron E2

The ASO has revised the technical regulations for the next year's Dakar, with the minimum weight of hybrid or electric cars entered in the T1U division increased from 2000kg to 2100kg. No such change has been made to petrol-powered cars that dominate the T1+ category and fight with T1U vehicles for overall wins, with their minimum weight remaining at 2,000kg.

This means that the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 will at least be 100kg heavier than its direct rivals in the German manufacturer’s second outing in Dakar next year, leaving it at a major disadvantage.

It follows a significant weight-saving exercise by Audi since its debut outing in Dakar earlier this year, where its car was over the minimum requirement by at least 200kg due to its incredibly complex powertrain.

Sainz, a three-time winner of the Dakar Rally, says he was surprised by ASO’s decision to bump up the weight for T1U vehicles when in fact it should be helping manufacturers that are willing to take risks with new technologies.

“Last year we had a minimum weight of 2000kg,” said Sainz. “Obviously, we were well over the weight because it was the first attempt of this new technology. 

“This new technology is cool but obviously it's not easy to make a car two tonnes or 2000 kilos with a battery pack, with three electrical engines we are carrying. Last year we were quite overweight. 

“This year the team has done a fantastic job but we have the surprise of new regulations coming to electric cars. Instead of 2000kg it's 2100kg, so in any case this year we will be 100kg heavier than our competitors and we are going to have a little bit less power. This is something difficult to understand. 

“I don't like to create polemics. I don't like to go too much into detail but I will say it surprised me that the regulations do not help somebody like Audi which has taken the braveness to try to go into these sustainable types of cars. 

“You do that and you find out that the regulations are not in your favour. This is something I'd say that surprised myself.”

Audi RS Q e-tron E2

Audi RS Q e-tron E2

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Sainz believes the rise in the minimum weight of the Audi will particularly hamper it towards the end of stages, when petrol-powered cars will have little fuel remaining in the tank and hence will be at their lightest.

“We want to think that we will be close [to our competitors]," said Sainz. “We are talking about a five kilowatts difference in power [to T1+ cars] which is not a lot. And then obviously we are carrying 100kg more. 

“When you talk about the kilos at the beginning of the stage, we will have a probably similar weight because others have to carry more fuel. But when we reach the end of the stage we will be 100kg overweight. 

“This is obviously not so nice. In any case it will be impossible for us to go to the minimum weight of 2000kg, but as a principle it's difficult to understand [the change in rules] from my point of view.”

Sainz expects the Toyota of reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme car of WRC legend Sebastien Loeb to be his main challengers next year, but he also thinks all three Audi drivers will be in the mix.

“Our main competitors are very clear,” he said. “It's Toyota and Nasser, the biggest threat there. We also have [the] Bahrain [team], the car is also very fast and Prodrive has all the engineers, and obviously Sebastien Loeb will be there. 

“And Audi drivers. Mattias [Ekstrom] is going to be fast, Stephane [Peterhansel] is always there and he has won so many times. And I consider myself as well as one of the favourites. We have a strong team but our main competitors are very clear.”

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Unlike teammate Sainz, 14-time Dakar winner Peterhansel was hesitant to speak out against the Balance of Performance system used to even out the speed of cars running on electric power and conventional fuel, saying it is best to leave this matter in the hands of the regulators.

“The balance of performance is always complicated to find,” said Peterhansel. “I think that if the people from the FIA decide this balance of performance, I think it's fair. 

“But I never say I'm happy or not happy. We have rules, we need to follow the rules and we need to do the best with the rules. 

“So if you lose energy to fight the decision of the FIA, you lose energy for nothing because they will never change for you. 

“The most important thing is to focus on the development of our car, to do our best with the solution that we have and we will see what will happen. No comment about the BoP.”

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