Carlos Sainz has enjoyed a legendary career in off-road racing, having won two World Rally Championships and three Dakar Rallies, among many other accomplishments. Now sixty years old, he has just one final item on his checklist that he wishes to achieve before he considers hanging up his helmet: a fourth Dakar Rally victory with as many manufacturers.
“My last big goal is to win the Dakar with a different brand,” said Sainz while speaking at last weekend’s MARCA Sport Weekend. “The challenge is of winning the Dakar for the first time with an electric hybrid car.”
Sainz won the Dakar Rally in 2010, 2018, and 2020 with Volkswagen, Peugeot, and Mini, respectively. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Volkswagen, Mini, Toyota) and Stéphane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Mini) are the only other drivers to win the Rally with three different makes, while no other driver has achieved it racing for four; Peterhansel also won six Dakar crowns with Yamaha, though in Bikes.
Besides both threatening to be the first to complete the feat, Peterhansel and Sainz are team-mates at Audi Sport. Their 2023 Rally was spoiled by wrecks, oddly in the same area at the same time in Stage #6 before a second crash three legs later took Sainz out with two fractured vertebrae. Sainz added he is “much better, but I still have to wait a couple of months (before driving again). I can do everything except get into the car.”
While he has not required surgery to treat the injury, instead opting for INDIBA radiofrequency therapy, it sidelined him for the 2023 Extreme E season. Mattias Ekström, another Audi driver, replaced him in the ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team car; joined by fellow Dakar driver Laia Sanz, the team won the second race of the season opener, coincidentally in Saudi Arabia like the Dakar Rally.
Sainz did not confirm for which manufacturer he would race at the Dakar Rally in the future, but stressed that “if Audi is there, I’ll be in the Dakar.” The German company has returned to the drawing board on their rally raid programme after a disastrous 2023 Dakar Rally in which only Ekström reached the finish and outside the top ten. The team’s new Audi RS Q e-tron E2 proved to be quick, winning a stage with Sainz, but struggled to keep up with the Toyota Hilux T1+ of Al-Attiyah and Prodrive Hunters even with the FIA executing a controversial “Balance of Technology” to level the playing field.
“The power-to-weight ratio in the world of competition does not fail and win with more kilos and less power,” Sainz commented. “Perhaps the FIA and ASO have realised that they have not treated us very well in the last two editions, even depending on Audi to consider running the Dakar. I understand that if they do not give us the power that corresponds to us by weight, they will reconsider running the Dakar.”