The Dakar Rally is arguably the world’s most gruelling race, spanning tens of thousands of kilometres across harsh desert environments. The event has attracted several top brands in the past and is welcoming a new contender in 2022 in the form of Audi, which will compete for the first time in the sport’s 41-year history. This works effort will spearhead the company’s future motorsports strategy.

What’s more, Ingolstadt is the first carmaker to enter with an alternative powertrain concept – its rally racer will be a range-extended electric vehicle, powered by an electric motor, a high-voltage battery and a “highly-efficient” TFSI petrol engine. No other details have been released just yet, but the shadowy teaser shows a typical jacked-up SUV with enormous knobbly tyres, replete with the brand’s “singleframe” grille.

Audi says it aims to “permanently improve the performance of the electric drivetrain and the battery” over the coming years, which will feed into the development of future electrified production models. And that’s not all – the company is also making a long-awaited return to top-flight endurance racing with an entry in the new LMDh sports prototype category.

These hybrid regulations, which will exist alongside the Le Mans Hypercars (LMH) making their debut in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), will allow Audi to enter both the 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans. The four-ringed brand will want to emulate its massively dominant performance at the latter, which it won 13 times between 2000 and 2014.

Customer activities will also continue, with the R8 LMS staying put in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring and the Intercontinental GT Challenge. Audi can’t have every finger in every pie, so it is pulling out of Formula E at the end of the 2021 season, despite developing a new electric powertrain for next year. However, it is still open to supporting customer teams, including Envision Virgin Racing up to at least end-2022.