The Spaniard himself scored his fourth Dakar victory behind the wheel of Audi’s electrified RS Q e-tron.
While Audi may have cemented its Quattro all-wheel drive reputation in the world of rallying, the quad-ringed automaker has however gone without a win at what is arguably the world’s most gruelling off-road event. Though as the saying goes, its third time was really the charm, as 2024 saw Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz score the German marque’s maiden Dakar win.
In fact, this win is actually to be more poetic than it initially seems, as Audi had already intended to pull out of the Dakar after this latest running in order to focus on its upcoming F1 efforts. So it could really be said that with this all-or-nothing last-ditch attempt, this eventual success saw German automaker to really be leaving the Arabian dust behind on the highest of highs.
Moreover, it should be highlighted too that Audi’s maiden win at this year’s Dakar is also to be significant because of the car it ran. Such is because the RS Q e-tron piloted by Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz is to be the first-ever electric direct-drive vehicle to clinch the top spot at this gruelling event, but it has to nevertheless be noted that this quad-ringed dune-basher does indeed have a 2.0-litre engine acting as a range extender to charge its drive batteries.
Quickly glossing over that slight technicality now, another feat from Audi’s maiden Dakar win is for Carlos Sainz Sr. to have scored his fourth victory at this event as well. The Spanish rally legend (and father to current Ferrari F1 driver) has previously secured the top spot on the podium in 2010, 2018 and 2020 with VW, Peugeot and MINI respectively.
Rather interestingly, the 61-year old didn’t win a single individual stage during the entirety of this year’s rally. His consistency and knack of staying out of trouble however saw him avoiding the misfortunes that beset his main rivals, and come away to secure the win with a 1 hour and 20 minute lead over 2nd place Guillaume de Mevius in the Overdrive Toyota.
Completing the third podium spot on the car segment meanwhile was 9-time WRC champion Sébastian Loeb, whose dreams of overall victory with his Prodrive hunter was dashed when the Frenchman lost an hour on the penultimate stage with damaged suspension. And speaking of dashing dreams, Audi’s (then rather plausible) initial hope for a 1-2 finish was cut short when two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom suffered mechanical issues on Stage 7, leaving Sainz as its sole contender for victory.
“Congratulations to Team Audi Sport on winning the Dakar Rally,” stated Gernot Döllner, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, regarding this rally win. “Audi has once again set a milestone in motorsport. Winning the world’s toughest desert rally with an electrified drive is a visible ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ and points the way to our electric future.”
Just touching on the two-wheel category for a bit here, Ricky Brabec scored his second Dakar win in the motorcycle class on a Honda CRF450 Rally. TwinTrail Racing Team’s Carles Falcon wasn’t so fortunate though, as he tragically passed away earlier this month having suffered a crash on his KTM that caused spinal fracture in an early stage of the race.