Is Audi’s ’dream’ Dakar Rally team inspired by Stallone’s The Expendables?
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INGOLSTADT - Audi becomes the first car manufacturer to battle for overall victory in the infamous Dakar Rally next year with an electrified powertrain, not only heralding an energy revolution in cross-country motorsport, but at the same time securing three illustrious driver teams for this ambitious project.
Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist (Sweden), Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (France) and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Spain) will compete for Audi Sport in, arguably, the world’s toughest rally from January 2 to 14, 2022.
“It’s no exaggeration to speak of a ‘dream team’,” says Julius Seebach, managing director of Audi Sport. “Stéphane is the most successful Dakar driver of all time. Carlos is a multiple Dakar winner and World Rally champion. With Mattias, we already celebrated many Audi successes in the past. He is one of the world’s most versatile drivers. In addition to a lot of speed, they are all adding an extreme amount of expertise and motivation to our team. The same goes for their co-drivers, who play an increasingly important role in the Dakar Rally.”
“In the end, the drivers and co-drivers make the difference at the Dakar Rally,” says Andreas Roos, responsible for the factory motorsport commitments at Audi Sport. “The fact that we will have three driver teams at the very highest level is reassuring. We can put a check mark behind this point. Now it’s up to us to complete the development of our innovative car and kick off the energy revolution in cross-country rallying in January.”
“At the Dakar Rally, teamwork and reliability are crucial,” says Sven Quandt, team principal of Q Motorsport. “You need a well-bonded team, a super reliable car and reliable driver teams. You can’t permanently drive at the limit in the Dakar Rally. The right strategy is crucial. I’m very happy that we will have three renowned and strong teams competing for us. We know their qualities very well.”
Mattias Ekström (42) has spent almost his career under the banner of the four rings, particularly in the DTM, where he won the title twice with Audi (2004 and 2007). The Swede underlined his versatility by winning the World Rallycross Championship in 2016, as well as successful stints in the World Rally Championship, NASCAR and in Australian Supercars. In 2021, he is competing for CUPRA in the new Extreme E electric off-road series. Earlier this year, he also made his debut in the Dakar Rally.
“The Dakar will definitely be one of the most exciting adventures of my career,” says Ekström. “To be able to tackle this exciting project together with the team, with which I celebrated my greatest successes, is fantastic. Although I’ll be turning 43 this year, I feel like a junior compared to Carlos and Stéphane. In this sport, you need a lot of experience in all areas. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Mattias Ekström’s co-driver is his compatriot Emil Bergkvist (26), who used to be a rally driver himself. “I come from the same region as Mattias. He has always been an idol for me, every motorsport enthusiast in Sweden knows him,” says Bergkvist. “When I stopped driving, I called him and asked if I could work for his team. Now, I am his co-driver. It’s an honour for me to be able to work with Mattias and be part of this great project at Audi.”