With only a few days left until the legendary Dakar Rally, the Audi team stepped up their work. In addition to the risks arising from the nature of off-road races, the issue of safety, which requires a very serious study due to the fact that the vehicle has a high voltage system and can provide optimum passenger protection in case of an accident, is one of the areas of focus of the team.
Shortly before the Dakar Rally, which is considered one of the most important motosports organizations in the world, Audi continues its preparations at full speed for the RS Q e-tron vehicles that will compete in this race.
Structure based on the space industry
An important part of the preparations is the safety of the vehicle and the team. According to racing regulations, the protective and carrier structure of the vehicle must be made of metallic materials. The basic structure of these areas in the RS Q e-Tron consists of a tube frame. Audi chose an alloy containing chromium, molybdenum and vanadium (CrMoV) alloying elements while making this frame. This alloy, which is also used in the aerospace industry, consists of heat resistant, quenched annealed steel.
Constructing the frame in accordance with the geometry defined in the regulations and meeting the necessary static pressure tests, Audi also ensures the protection of the drivers thanks to the panels made of composite materials used in the spaces between the chassis. These components, which are made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) supported by Zylon against some situations that may cause tearing, also prevent sharp and pointed objects from entering the vehicle. Likewise, it protects pilots and co-pilots from any problems with the high voltage system.
Audi used tubular frame designs made of sheet steel chassis CFRP monocoques in the DTM from 2004-2011, in rallycross from 2017-2018, in the LMP from 1999-2016, in the DTM touring car in 2012 and in Formula E from 2017-2021. , is the only automaker to implement so many programs so broadly and successfully.
Not just chassis
Audi does not only use the knowledge gained from its work in so many areas in the field of chassis. The body is made of CFRP, Kevlar or a composite material, depending on the component. The windshield is made of heated laminate with high scratch resistance, previously used in the Audi A4, and the side windows are made of lighter polycarbonate. In this way, maximum visibility and insulation against dust are also provided. In the cockpit, the pilot and co-pilot sit in CFRP cabins whose designs are similar to the DTM and LMP.
Triple protection of 54 mm at the bottom
The underlying protection is much more complex. Due to the nature of off-road sports with meters of jumps, bouncing stones and rocks and high slopes, vehicles can be exposed to extreme stresses. That's why the bottom of the RS Q e-Tron is formed from an aluminum plate that resists wear from hard objects and partially absorbs impact energy. Energy-absorbing foam in a top layer absorbs impacts and disperses them into the layered structure above. This third layer structure protects the high voltage battery and energy converter. The CFRP layered structure fulfills two main tasks: Absorbing the load transmitted from the aluminum sheet through the foam and dissipating the energy if this load is exceeded. Thus, the collapse is controlled and the battery is protected. In case of excessive damage, easy assembly during service is another advantage. The lower body, which consists of this triple protection developed against impacts, is 54 millimeters in total.
The entire team received electrical firefighting training.
The high-voltage system in the RS Q e-Tron vehicles that will compete in the Dakar naturally requires multiple protection. The centrally located high-voltage battery is encapsulated with CFRP structures, some of which are reinforced with Zylon. Audi's high-voltage protection concept is complemented by an ISO monitor known from LMP and Formula E. The system, which detects dangerous fault currents, automatically shuts down if maximum kinetic loads such as collisions occur and a threshold value is exceeded. The control lamps on the body and the audible signal tone also serve to send a danger warning to the teams after an accident.
The electrically insulated fire extinguishing agent in the in-vehicle fire extinguishing system also provides optimum insulation of the system against water during water passages. However, the entire crew, including the pilot and co-pilot, also received the high-voltage training that the organizer did for rescuers.
Safety at the Dakar Rally is complemented by some regulations, devices and precautions provided by the organisation. These include a safety tracking system with an SOS key where competitors can make emergency calls and be found quickly, an accident data recorder that measures and records important variables for later analysis, a built-in security camera in the cockpit, making vehicle passages safer in desert-specific dusty environments. The Sentinel system, which brings new features, and lastly, the limitation of the top speed in the T1 category to 170 km/h.