Interview with Carlos Sainz
He was Rally World Champion twice, he won 26 World Championship rallies – and now he once again has a great victory in his sights: Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz with co-driver Michel Périn number among the favourites in the Dakar Rally
premiere in South America.
Together with the entire Volkswagen team the Spaniard eagerly awaits the ceremonial start of the desert classic on the evening of 2 January in the heart of the bustling metropolis Buenos Aires and the first stage a day later. The hot-blooded Sainz, happy to be called "El Matador”, knows only too well that patience is an important virtue in cross country rallying and that the "Dakar” is not won in the first of the opening 9,578 kilometres: "I always tell myself: Carlos keep cool.”
The final preparations have been successfully completed and the start of the Dakar Rally is approaching. Just how much are you looking forward to this special premiere in Argentina and Chile?
Carlos Sainz: "The Dakar Rally is the biggest event in cross country rallying. Everything else is just waiting. This rally is held only once a year, and after the 2008 event was cancelled two years of development and preparation lie behind us. To be honest I'll be happy when it finally gets going.”
The start is on the "Avenida 9 de Julio”, the widest major road in the world.
What kind of an atmosphere are you expecting there?
"Motorsport plays an important role here in Argentina, and also Chile. The spectators are particularly crazy about rallying. I'm convinced that we will receive a resounding and atmospheric send off from Buenos Aires.”
The Volkswagen team made a calm, concentrated and well-sorted impression over the last few days of preparation. How are you feeling just before the start?
"To contest a ‘Dakar' with winning as the goal really requires a perfect team performance. I want to make my contribution. For this purpose it will be necessary to stay concentrated throughout this long rally. Nevertheless I'm still relaxed before the start as I know that I have a strong team behind me that will do everything to be successful.”
How do you assess the opponents in the fight for the "Dakar” victory?
"Mitsubishi are the defending champions and won the last Dakar Rally. They are the champions. We, but also X-raid-BMW and Robby Gordon in the Hummer are the challengers. We will certainly see one of the toughest ‘Dakars' in history – also and because of the level of competition.”
Many see Volkswagen as favourite for overall victory. How do you deal with this intended role?
"I don't think that we are any more a favourite than the previously mentioned teams. Mitsubishi are the defending champions, even if they do compete with a newly developed car, and therefore the ones to beat. However, this is exactly what we'll try to do. We are well prepared for this.”
Cross country rallies are a multidimensional sport in which navigation and technical aspects are as important as driving abilities. What is of particular fascination for you?
"For me, cross country rallying is more of a team sport than in every other form of motorsport. In my eyes it is exactly this that makes this discipline so special. For 15 days every single team member must deliver perfect work. You only have a chance of winning the ‘Dakar' with a zero error job.”
What will be the key factor to achieving the target of overall victory?
"Just to function perfectly as a team. For me personally: You always have to be extremely patient during the Dakar Rally. Every day I have to consciously prevent myself from wanting too much, from taking too many risks. I always tell myself, ‘Carlos this rally has 14 tough stages, keep cool'. In my opinion it will be a question of patience, patience, patience for me and my co-driver Michel Périn.”