MotoGP Legend Valentino Rossi Joins Team WRT for 2022

Valentino Rossi and Team WRT R8

Rossi retired from MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season, but made no secret of his desire to keep racing.

In the two-wheeled world, Valentino Rossi needs no introduction. During his legendary career, the Italian MotoGP superstar won an astonishing nine Grand Prix world championships, and ushered in a new era of motorcycle racing’s premier class. Rossi retired from two-wheeled competition at the end of the 2021 season, but he made no secret of his desire to keep racing, and now we know he’s headed to Team WRT, where he’ll pilot an Audi R8 in the GT World Challenge Europe. Here’s his full statement about the move:

I am delighted to join Team WRT for a full Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS programme. Everybody knows that I have always been a great car racing fan and that I have always been interested in racing on four wheels once my MotoGP career would come to an end. Now I am completely available to devote myself to a car racing program at a high level and with the right professional approach. Team WRT is the perfect fit I was looking for and I am anxious to start this new adventure in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS with them.     

Given his celebrated status in the world of motorsport, this is unquestionably a huge get for Team WRT, and as a longtime fan of Rossi, I’m excited to see how his skills translate after adding an additional pair of wheels.

As of last month, he was already testing the Audi R8 LMS GT3 which WRT will run this season, so announcement comes as little surprise. In a nod to his past success on the track, his car will bear the number 46, which he has sported his entire career. Interestingly, that number has not been retired from MotoGP — though it’d take one hell of set of stones to put it on a race bike.

Official test days for 2022 GT World Challenge Series Europe kick off March 8th at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France, and the first race is set for one month later, at Monza in Italy. How exactly how Rossi and his teammates — which will include factory Audi drivers — will fare this season remains to be seen. But “The Doctor’s” presence in the pits is sure to create some excitement for the series, particularly in his home country. Until then, check out the video below to watch some of the best moments from Rossi’s extraordinary MotoGP career!

Photos: ValentinoRossi.com

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Audi RS Q e-tron Makes History at Dakar 2022

Audi RS Q e-tron Dakar 2022

Victory of Stage 3 of Dakar 2022 marks the first time a hybrid vehicle has triumphed at the legendary rally.

The 2022 Dakar Rally hasn’t gone exactly as planned for Audi Sport. But while the race is only about half over, the team has already made history. Because four days into the race, driver Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz brought their RS Q e-tron in ahead of all the competition. That marked the first time that a hybrid-electric car has won a stage during the legendarily grueling test of man and machine. Make no mistake — this isn’t just a watershed moment for Audi, or the Dakar, but the world of racing as a whole.

To be clear, the RS Q e-tron isn’t a fully electric vehicle, as it features a small internal combustion motor to charge the batteries when plugging in would prove impossible. That said, given the resources that Audi is dedicating toward electric development, and the pace at which battery technology is developing, an all-electric Dakar rig might not be all that far off. So don’t be surprised if you see Dakar veteran and Audi partner Ken Block behind the wheel of a green machine in the next few years.

Unfortunately, an overall victory in 2022 isn’t in the cards. On the first stage, Audi driver and 14-time Dakar champ Stéphane Peterhansel hit a rock which took out not only one of his wheels, but a decent chuck of the rear suspension. While that’s the kind of thing that can happen when you’re racing for 5,000 miles through the desert, the time spent sitting on the trail means the time off the lead will be all but impossible to overcome.

More frustrating than the crash, however, was a confusing roadbook that left his teammates Sainz and Cruz lost for a whopping two hours. In fairness, they weren’t the only car that wound up off the course, but since Audi declined to file a grievance with race control, the standings will reflect the unfortunate detour. That said? While it would have been amazing to win overall on the e-tron’s first effort, it was always a longshot, and Audi will undoubtedly learn plenty about its innovative powertrain over the course of the race.

Photos: Audi

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Audi Poised to Announce an F1 Program

Audi F1

What Audi’s F1 effort would look like is uncertain, but an official announcement should come soon.

If you’re a Formula 1 fan who’d like to cheer for a car wearing the famous Four Rings, it sure sounds like you’re in luck. Because a new report from out friends over at Autocar says that Ingolstadt is set to announce an F1 program, as forthcoming changes to the rulebook will put a focus on sustainable fuels and electric powertrains. While those rules don’t take effect until 2026, and the deal has yet to be approved by the Volkswagen Group brass,  it sounds like fans have every reason to be encouraged. Here’s what Audi CEO Markus Duesmann recently wrote to FIA president Jean Todt:

Thanks to your efforts we are now close to the finish line. Recently, we saw another milestone being reached – the first draft of the technical, sporting and financial regulations… We believe that it contains satisfying solutions for all the objectives.

We look forward to working with you and your team, to complete this important process and to confirm our Formula 1 entry early next year

At this point, exactly what an F1 effort from Audi would look like is uncertain. As rumors have swirled about the company taking the plunge into motorsport’s top tier series, there’s been speculation that it could involve a partnership with McLaren, a role as an engine supplier, or even a traditional factory team. Further complicating any move are rumors that corporate cousin Porsche is also mulling a Formula 1 campaign.  Given how expensive a presence in the sport is, the big question is how much money Volkswagen Group would be prepared to spend to have two of its marque properties battle each other.

As foggy as the outlook might be, however, it does seem like a good time to start planning for an Audi F1 campaign. Right now, arch rival Mercedes is on its heels after Red Bull driver Max Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton in a historic showdown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix earlier this month. Verstappen’s victory broke an amazing seven-year run for the Mercedes team, and may very well mark a changing of the guard in the long-stagnant series. Fortunately, since 2022 is right around the corner, we’ll have more news soon. So stay tuned!

Photos: Audi

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Rare Opportunity: 2009 Audi R15 TDI for Sale

2009 Audi R15 TDI

This 2009 Audi R15 TDI didn’t achieve victory at Le Mans, but it’s still a fantastic piece of motorsports history.

In the automotive hobby, there are rare cars, and there are the kind of ultra-rare unicorn cars that are the stuff of legend. This 2009 Audi R15 TDI for sale on Canepa definitely falls into the later category, as it’s the only example of the Le Mans racer in private hands, and it’s also the last of Audi’s open-top race cars. Along with those  distinctions, this example — chassis number T 101 — was actually the very first version of the R15 produced, and saw action at the 12 Hours of Sebring in addition to the grueling French 24-hour race.

Unfortunately, that was an off year for Audi at the Circuit de la Sarthe, and the car took third place in class, behind a pair of Peugeot 908 HDi FAPsThat said, while it wasn’t the most successful of Audi’s modern race cars, it played a critical role in the development of the company’s successes at Le Mans. In fact, an updated version of the the R15, dubbed the R15 Plus, returned to France in 2010, and took delivered a spectacular one-two-three finish, reasserting Audi’s dominance at the event.

Of course, it goes without saying that this machine’s performance potential is so far beyond the capabilities of mere mortals, it’s not even funny. Power comes from a 5.7-liter diesel V10, which is good for 590 horsepower and a whopping 774 lb-ft of torque.

Due to the rules of Le Mans, all that poke is transferred exclusively to the rear wheels via a dual-clutch transmission. There’s nothing mentioned about it in the listing, but given the fighter-jet complexity of Prototype cars, something tells me firing it up is a little more complex than it would be with, say, an new RS7 Sportback. So I’m wondering how feasible it would be to bring this to a track day. If you have any details on that subject, please hit me up.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, there’s no listed price, but I think this baby fetch a million dollars if I fetches a dime. Curiously, while the race history seems pretty comprehensive, there’s no mention of how it long it’s been in private hands, or even how it got there in the first place. Given how special this machine is, and the bleeding-edge tech Prototype cars feature, the owner likely pulled some strings to get it, so I’d bet that story makes for fascinating reading.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an Audi Prototype up for sale, as back in March, I posted about an R18 TDI Ultra which came up for sale. While that machine didn’t actually compete at Le Mans, a version just like it took the checkered flag at the 2011 running of the race. That listing is long gone, so it’s unclear how much it went for, but again, it can’t have been cheap. Personally, I’m beyond stoked that 2023 will see Audi return to Le Mans, and we’ll have more details on that machine early next year, so stay tuned.

Photos: Canepa

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Exciting Experiment: The Audi RS Q e-tron is Heading to Dakar

Audi RS Q e-tron

This January, the Audi RS Q e-tron prototype will enter the legendarily brutal Dakar Rally.

Back in April, we posted about how Audi was set to enter the grueling Dakar rally with an electric vehicle prototype. At the time, the only image available was a render of it under some silk. But now, Ingolstadt has ripped the cover off — and does this baby ever look like a beast. So meet the Audi RS Q e-tron, the next generation of extreme rally machines. If any green machine is going to bend the desert to its will, you can bet that this Four Ring ripper will be the one to do it.

Now, you might be wondering exactly how the Audi Sport team was planning to charge the batteries during an event which will take the drivers through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. Because that’s obviously the $10,000 question, and one that the engineers solved by equipping the RS Q e-tron with a TFSI engine that will serve as an onboard generator, so the 50 kW battery pack gets a constant stream of juice. While that might technically make this desert sled a hybrid, it’s safe to say that if it was operating in, say, the greater Los Angeles area, it could lose the internal combustion component all together.

Each wheel is powered by an individual motor, and when it’s completely uncorked, the RS Q e-tron is capable of a whopping 670 horsepower. In the press literature, there’s no mention of a torque figure, and at this time, it’s unclear whether the rally’s governing body will allow the rig to run at full power. Given all the rules and regulations which characterize racing at any level, it’s entirely possible that it’ll have to be governed, so the playing field can remain as even as possible.

Obviously, this is a massive undertaking, and just finishing the race would be a huge achievement. After all, lots of competitors running tried and true kit wind up stranded during Dakar, as there’s just no telling what can happen once the rally is underway. But Andreas Roos, who’s running the ambitious campaign, is clearly already proud:

Less than twelve months have passed since the project officially started. We had to begin the development while the regulations for alternatively-powered vehicles had not even been finalized yet. And all of the development took place during the Corona pandemic. You mustn’t underestimate that either. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone.

The 2022 Dakar Rally is set to kick off in January, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the race to see just how well Audi’s historic entry fares against both the competition and the cruel desert sand. So stay tuned!

Photos: Audi

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