2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Audi fined for no-show

2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Audi fined for no-show

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Team Audi Sport‘s rally raid effort finally achieved their main goal when they won the Dakar Rally in January, but it came at a cost as parts shortages forced them to shut down sooner than expected, unable to race the rest of the World Rally-Raid Championship. To add insult to injury, the FIA announced Tuesday that they have been given a €750,000 fine for not appearing at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge despite being registered for the manufacturer’s championship.

2024 was already going to be Audi’s final year in rally raid before they focus on their new Formula One arm, which will début in 2026, but they still planned to run the entire W2RC season before shuttering. After winning the Dakar with Carlos Sainz, they led the manufacturer’s standings with 76 points, thirteen ahead of Toyota.

In spite of the Dakar victory, heavy attrition over the past two years of racing meant they did not have enough components left to continue the season. As the only electric vehicle in the W2RC’s Ultimate class, the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 uses specialised parts that only a select list of suppliers provide, and some require as long as two years to be produced. Audi consequently folded the division in mid-February and the FIA was informed of the news on 23 February, two days before the start of the ADDC. Sven Quant, who runs Audi’s technical partner Q Motorsport, also told the FIA that Audi AG’s new CEO Gernot Döllner did not wish to continue the programme following Dakar.

Regardless of the circumstances, the FIA deemed their absence a violation of Article 3.4.3 of the Cross-Country Rally Sporting Regulations, which states a marque who has registered for points “undertakes to participate in all the Rallies of the Championship with at least one vehicle of Groups Ultimate, Stock, Challenger or SSV complying with the technical regulations in force.” In 2023, BAIC ORV had all of their points deducted and were fined €10,000 when they entered the manufacturer’s championship but skipped the final two rounds. Competing for points is such a major commitment that FIA manufacturers must pay €55,000 to be eligible.

€562,500 of Audi’s fine is applied on a suspended sentence provided they do not repeat it, though the team’s demise guarantees they will have to pay it off unless someone else manages to takes their place. Quandt has expressed interest in acquiring the RS Q e-trons for Q Motorsport, though low parts remains an issue even if Audi approves the transfer.

Toyota, Prodrive, and Mini are the only other brands in the 2024 manufacturer’s title battle.

Sainz and his team-mates Mattias Ekström and Stéphane Peterhansel were allowed to join other teams following Audi’s closing, but none are racing at Abu Dhabi. Conversely, Peterhansel’s co-driver Édouard Boulanger is now with Prodrive’s Nasser Al-Attiyah who currently leads the ADDC.

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