Back in the day, the roles inside of a rally car were clear — the driver drove and the co-pilot navigated. However, now that rally cars are a bit more complicated, the roles between occupants is more complicated as well. Now, the co-pilot has a bit more work to do, operating the car itself. While the driver still has to drive and operate much of the car, the co-pilots responsibilities have grown and it all starts with this new Audi RS Q e-tron Dakar rally racer.
The drivers of the new RS Q e-tron are Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel, and Carlos Sainz and they will still focus mostly on actually driving. However, the amount of information they now have at their disposal, via the digital instrument panel, has increased from previous races. There are now eight buttons on the steering wheel, all for doing things like scrolling through information, checking for mechanical errors, and even time stamp any sort of anomaly they found on the road.
However, the job that’s increased the most is that of the co-pilot. Now they have to navigate, always, but they also have to help operate many functions of the car through a touchscreen center display. Interestingly, the paper notes that co-drivers have always used to help navigate drivers through unseen terrain are now digital.
Rather than paper notes, two digital tablet screens provide all of the navigation info for co-pilots. On one tablet is all of the terrain info. On the other, the GPS navigation and waypoints are displayed. Only if the tablets should fail are co-pilots allowed to open the sealed paper navigation notes. If they open the sealed paper notes without the tablets failing, they’re subject to penalty. But don’t think co-drivers are unhappy with the change.
“I now spend only half my energy on navigation, the other half on operating the car. But I love this new challenge,” said Edouard Boulanger, Stéphane Peterhansel’s co-driver.’
Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a veteran, no one is used these rules. So any disadvantage any experienced-pilot had in regular F1 is now mostly gone, as all co-drivers are adjusting to the same rule.
The Audi RS Q e-tron also features some cool new tech. For instance, the handbrake is now electronic and even adds regenerative braking to the rear wheels when applied, so the Q8 e-tron uses regen braking in all braking scenarios. There’s also a very cool Iritrack system on board that can be used to inform the race organizer of a crash and whether or not there are any injuries to the driver or co-driver, should they require medical assistance.
This new Audi RS Q e-tron is a massive step forward for both the brand and Dakar rally racing. It’s Audi’s first-ever electrically-powered rally racer (an on-board engine charges the battery, making it an EV with a gas range extender) and it’s going to help move Audi’s EV performance game forward.