Wolfsburg (18 January 2010). The fulfilment of a long harboured dream: Volkswagen factory driver Carlos Sainz won the 2010 Dakar held in Argentina and Chile. In this toughest test in motorsport worldwide the charismatic Spaniard celebrated, together with his fellow countryman Lucas Cruz, his very first “Dakar” victory in the automobile category for his country. An interview with “El Matador” about a great sporting victory, the future and a new Sainz generation.
What do you consider to be your greatest victory in your motorsport career?
Carlos Sainz: “That’s not so easy to answer. I’ve won two rally world championships and now the ‘Dakar’. In principle both are similar disciplines, however, at the same time completely different. And they are difficult to win. One thing is sure: the Dakar Rally is a great race of enormous importance in the sporting world. To have won this makes me extremely proud, particularly as I won it my way, and according to my understanding of this sport.”
How much experience is required to win a “Dakar”?
“The first thing you need is a car capable of winning. This I had this year with the Race Touareg, and I also had this last year. However, at that time unfortunate circumstances prevented victory. This year we did the job. After starting in cross country rallying in 2005 I first had to learn how to drive quickly and without making mistakes in deep desert sand. That I didn’t get bogged down in either 2009 or 2010 during the ‘Dakar’ shows that I’ve mastered this. For this experience counts.”
How much patience is required for a “Dakar” victory?
“When I switched to this discipline I had to work at staying patient. This is one of the big differences to sprint rallies. Throughout the entire rally, during the stages, even in the bivouac – you have to stay patient all the time. Particularly during the ‘Dakar’ it’s just not possible to ride your luck, the sport is way too complex for this. I think I’ve understood more and more each year.”
For tactical reasons this year it appears as if you deliberately refrained from winning stages, so as not to open the stage so often on the following day – what is actually a real disadvantage. Pure rationale?
“Indeed, it’s possible to have the impression that I wasn’t so focussed on taking victory on the day. Even so, to be honest I constantly gave my all, but on the odd occasion was unlucky with dust and punctures. In the second week this impression was justified: With the lead in our pocket we paid more attention to looking after the material, although my team mate Nasser Al-Attiyah got closer and closer by taking more risks. However, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen offered excellent tactical advice all the time.”
You are unbeaten up to now with your new co-driver Lucas Cruz. What makes the difference?
“Things went well from the beginning and we won the test rallies in Brazil and in the Orient. We have a good relationship with each other and Lucas does an excellent job. From the strategic point of view each victory was well driven. I think, if you take these statistics into consideration, we did our job very well.”
How would you describe your relationship to Lucas Cruz in and outside the cockpit?
“First and foremost Lucas is a first class co-driver and navigator. On top of this, he is rather a quiet person and always relaxed. With these character traits he complements me perfectly. He is highly professional and takes his job very seriously.”
The “Dakar” is also a team sport. Just how important is it to have a good team behind you?
“We discussed earlier that unless you have a car capable of winning it is impossible to win the ‘Dakar’. For me, this also includes the team that prepares the car. So, a real winning team. Being part of a fabulous team like Volkswagen makes me proud. The squad has developed continuously since I was signed five year ago. Every team member knows exactly what they have to do and are extremely professional in doing it. Even on smaller rallies everybody is focussed on winning. The result of this is the one-two-three in the ‘Dakar’ for which the team worked extremely hard and deserved.”
As driver how do you keep your motivation?
“I always tell myself: you have to win for your guys. Winning is the best motivation. The team is fully and entirely devoted to winning, and you can only reward this incredible performance by permanetly doing your utmost. It is a good feeling to repay the crew on my car, my engineer Gerard Zyzik and the management team under Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen and Team manager Peter Utoft with a ‘Dakar’ win for their efforts.”
It was a great dream of yours to win the Dakar Rally. Have you now achieved everything in motorsport?
“In life you always need goals which are worth living for, which you have to work towards. If you achieve one of these goals, fulfil a dream, the relief is enormous at first. However, then you set yourself new goals again.”
What goals do you have for the future?
“With the ‘Dakar’ only just behind me I haven’t given this very much thought. However, I will certainly be getting together with Kris Nissen soon.” (laughs) “Perhaps Volkswagen will move into Formula 1 – that would be just at the right time for me …”
For this there will shortly be other Sainz candidates. How important to you is the career of your son Carlos Jr., who will start automobile racing this coming season?
“First of all the career is important for him. He must want to do this sport for himself and not because I or somebody else must convince him. I can only support him to the best of my abilities, and this is by not supporting him too little, but also by not supporting him too much. Carlos switches from karting to automobile racing now within the Red Bull scheme. Racing is a completely different discipline to rallying. Luckily my advice can therefore only be general. He must learn the rest himself. It certainly won’t be easy for him, but at the moment he’s doing a great job.”
Volkswagen Motorsport public website: www.volkswagen-motorsport.com
2010 Dakar Rally info: www.dakar.com
Volkswagen “Dakar” iPhone app: www.volkswagen-motorsport.com/dakar_iPhone