Audi will participate in the legendary Dakar Rally to be held in January 2022 in RS Q e-tron vehicles, where the pilot and co-pilots will compete during the race. zamintroduced the high-tech cockpits where they will spend their moments.
The division of duty, which we remember from rally or rally-cross competitions, in which the co-pilot is the guide and the pilot is the user according to this information, has changed for the teams that will compete in Dakar. The new regulations limit the steering duties to very strict rules. The familiar road notes on paper are being replaced by digital. With its operating concept, the Audi RS Q e-tron redistributes the various tasks and functions in this regard between pilots and co-pilots.
Energy recovery handbrake
The main tasks of Mattias Ekström, Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz, who will be behind the wheel of the Audi vehicles that will compete in the Dakar, will be to focus entirely on the terrain while ensuring the acceleration, deceleration and steering of the vehicle. Drivers no longer have to change gears thanks to the electric drive with energy converter in the Audi RS Q e-tron. At the center of the cockpit is a double crank aluminum handbrake lever. As the hydraulic brake is combined with an innovative cable braking system with a recovery system, it helps to recuperate energy, such as applying the handbrake, using the footbrake. However, as in rally racing, the main purpose of the handbrake will be to lock the rear wheels for a short time, especially during hard cornering, to force the RS Q e-tron to turn and allow it to slide in a controlled manner. In this way, especially direction changes can take place much faster and more agile.
Eight-button steering wheel
There are eight control buttons on the steering wheel, directly in front of the pilot. An anomaly if the pilot wishes zammemory with a time stamp and can also control the horn, windshield wipers and data entries in the software. It can also activate the speed limiter in areas where the maximum speed is limited. Located behind the steering wheel, in the driver's lower field of view, the display provides information on tire pressures, the direction chosen by the continuously variable electric drive (forward, reverse or neutral) and current speed. It also includes warning signs for pilots, for example, when the system suddenly shuts down or the battery is disconnected. Two small screens mounted above and to the side of the windshield also bring essential information into view: the left display shows the direction, while the right display shows the vehicle's speed.
24 different functions on one screen
Located right in the middle between pilot and co-pilot, the display contains information about tire pressures, selected brake balance, wired braking system and many other functions. The information is highlighted in green when a function or system is working properly, and in red if a malfunction or error occurs. Just below it is a switch panel with touch-sensitive keys. In this panel, Audi has recorded 24 different functions that were previously assigned but can be reassigned if desired: maximum speeds to be used in speed-limited areas, air conditioning values. Each of the 24 buttons can perform multiple functions. Less important functions can be assigned to subsequent touches.
Co-pilot control panel
Since it is necessary to use these functions accurately and carefully during long hours, on rough terrain, in a vehicle traveling at an average speed of 170 km/h, the control of this switch panel is connected to co-pilots. Therefore, in addition to their main task of navigation, co-pilots also take on a responsibility that requires a high level of attention. Edouard Boulanger, Stéphane Peterhansel's co-driver, said: “I now spend half my energy on navigating and the other half on driving the car. But I love this new challenge,” he says.
A new application is taking place in Dakar this year. Previously, the route of the next stage was announced the previous evening. This year, teams will receive route information every morning 15 minutes before the start of the stage. Sharing the cockpit of an RS Q e-tron with Mattias Ekström, Emil Bergkvist sees this as an advantage: “I've competed in classic rallies as a driver before. Now is the ideal time to move on to rally-cross as a co-driver. zamI think it's the moment. Because now the old co-pilots have to get used to these new rules too.” says.
Tablets instead of paper roadnotes
Besides the fact that information about the route is given shortly before the race, the transition to digital road notes also poses great difficulties. The three co-drivers of the team that will race for Audi, Emil Bergkvist, Edouard Boulanger and Lucas Cruz, will direct the pilots on the field and zamInstead of paper road notes, two tablets now look at the screen to continue the currently projected route. Both tablets are connected by cables and operated with two remote controls. On the left screen, it shows the road in the field. As per race rules, teams are only allowed to open sealed paper road notes if this tablet fails. The tablet on the right includes GPS navigation and verifies digital waypoints that each team should use.
Navigation systems in production cars help locate targets as precisely as possible in road traffic. However, the system used here only displays compass headings, distances, pictograms, special directions and hazard warnings, deliberately providing only limited assistance to teams. the system is the same zamAt the same time, it also serves as a control tool for the organizers. In open areas, in speed-limited areas exceeding hundreds of kilometers, it is possible to check whether the participants adhere to the route and speed.
Emergency system Iritrack
The cockpit is complemented by the Iritrack system in the center console, which is used for emergency first aid. Thanks to this system, the organizers can record the speed, current vehicle position and detect possible accidents. In an emergency, the co-pilot can report directly to the organizers if there has been an injury, if medical attention is needed, or if the rescue team needs to assist another participant in an accident.
Digitized operation in the unusual modern cockpit of the Audi RS Q e-tron is characterized by extreme precision, speed and a range of tasks. However, in such rallies, the human factor determines the sporting success.