Monday, June 27

“The Dakar is a box of surprises”

  • “There is a close fight for victory and I hope to be in the fight to win again,” says the Madrid driver.

  • “It is a race that imposes, you need to respect it a lot and that makes it so special when you win it,” he explains

Carlos Sainz is in Saudi Arabia ready to be one of the great protagonists of the next edition of the Dakar, to be disputed from January 3 to 15 with departure and arrival in Jeddah. The Madrilenian, accompanied by Lucas Cruz, will fight for its fourth Dakar in a year marked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The champion is the favorite. Are you comfortable with pressure? I feel comfortable, of course, but in this Dakar there are several favorites and we must be one of them because we are the ones who have the title and we start with the illusion of defending it.

What is your main enemy today? The pandemic, the lack of test kilometers, the improvement of the Toyota? Outside the world of sports, the pandemic is going to be a major threat that we are all going to have, the improvement of Toyota at the sports level is evidence and we also have to take into account the new car made by Prodrive that Sébastien Loeb will drive and Nani Roma. We, for our part, are happy with the evolution and with how little we have been able to shoot this year with the Mini. From there, it will be necessary to see in the first stages where each one is and I think that we will quickly find out who is going to fight for this Dakar.

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A year ago Saudi Arabia was a country to discover and they faced an adventure into the unknown. With a year of experience, do you see a difference? You go with another perspective. Logically, you already know the country, you know a little what you can find and, although the Dakar is a box of surprises, you do know something. The stages are always different, but we will be in areas that will be familiar to us, some already known terrain and there will be no big surprises as there could be last year. In this sense, when you have already competed in a Dakar in a country, you can already intuit what you are going to find more or less, the temperatures, the type of terrain, which are the most complicated parts. This makes you face it a little more calm.

The Mini has changed little, just a few settings … Enough? Time will tell. I always say that you can be happy, but you don’t know what others have been able to improve. We have to wait a couple of stages to judge how it is going to develop, although I think there will be a fight, that we will be in it and that if we don’t make big mistakes I hope to be fighting for the race.

He does not like to be asked, despite being 58 years old, if this Dakar will be the last, a question that is repeated at length every year. Audi’s announcement of landing the test in 2022 has suggested a sea of ​​rumors. Is the Audi option on the table? I have not had contact with them and I do not know if they will want to count on me. A new project within a large brand like Audi can be very seductive, also with a new car concept. Now, however, I want to be focused on the Dakar and there will be time if there is a desire and if they want to count on me.

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What have rally-raids and the Dakar in particular given you to get you hooked in this way? When I arrived, 15 years ago, I didn’t know if I was going to like it, but I have discovered a specialty that is an important challenge, both physically and mentally, as a team and mechanically. It is a very tough race, fun and in which, because of my way of understanding the competition, being very meticulous, worrying about all kinds of details and in which strategy is also important, in the end it has fun and that is why I continue to she. When I started I did not know him, he had never driven in the desert through the dunes and it is a race that is imposing. You need to respect it a lot and this also makes it so special when you get a good result.

What do you like the most and what do you least? What I like the most is that it is once a year, that it is special and that it is a strong challenge. The least, although it seems a contradiction, is probably having to wait a year to compete in it.

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