Carlos Sainz and Audi take legendary Dakar win

Carlos Sainz has made Motorsport History once again. With his co-driver Lucas Cruz by his side, he has achieved a first win for an electric prototype at the third stage (Al Qaisumah-Al Qaisumah, 255km) of the Dakar Rally 2022, which is currently being disputed until January 14 in Saudi Arabia. 

Following an outstanding performance, the Spaniards have delivered Audi’s first victory, debuting in the desert raid with an innovative and risky project.

Their weapon is the RS Q e-tronn Quattro hybrid, a car that runs on gasoline-powered electricity and that has no gearbox, a feature that allows for instant acceleration without having to ‘jump’ between gears; something never seen before. 

Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz ‘Out to kill’ 

Their pride wounded by Monday’s fiasco when they got lost and lost two hours & 21 minutes as they struggled with the electronic ‘road book’ and its many inaccuracies, they started the day with a thirst for revenge. 

Specifically, the three-time Dakar champions (2010,18,20) have completed the stage with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 51 seconds, a stage that was shortened by 113 km due to flooding. 

But making rally history was not easy. In fact, they only came ahead of Henk Lategan’s (Toyota Gazoo Racing) Hilux by 38 seconds. Also Stéphane Peterhansel, Sainz and Cruz’s teammate, finished only 1 minute and 41 seconds behind with the same car. Besides, the third Audi driven by Mattias Ekström ended fifth. Wow, the three Audis in the top five.

The Spaniards made their intentions crystal clear from the moment they set off: a ruthless attack. Focused on their goal, they managed to beat Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Extreme) at the first reference point (km 49), despite him having started three minutes earlier. 

 The decisive attack of the Spaniards 

In that initial phase, however, Lategan was still the fastest. The South African promise was 28 seconds ahead of Mattias Ekström‘s third Audi, and 32 seconds ahead of Sainz.

Surrounded by a sea of dunes and sandy tracks, they reached km 168. At that point, Lategan was still holding a comfortable lead. He could not relax, however, as in the rear-view mirror – 14 seconds behind – he could already make out the figure of car number 202.

Carlos Sainz& Lucas Cruz had shortened the distance with Lategan by more than half. It was then that they started their prodigious final 40 kilometres as they hunted down Nasser Al-Attihah, who was opening the track. No one could stop them now. 

Behind them, Lategan had to settle for second place. Peterhansel & Ekström was third and fifth in what was an unforgettable day for Audi.

Carlos Sainz, out of the title battle 

Despite their victory, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz are already out of the fight for the Tuareg statuette. They are currently twenty-sixth in the standings and at 2 hours, 19 minutes and 21 seconds behind the leader. 

The important thing, however, is that they have now demonstrated that Audi is able to lead the ecological transition of the specialty into the future. They have done so despite using a vehicle whose sophistication and innovation was looked down upon for its capability to compete in one of the most hostile environments on earth. 

At the individual classification, Nasser Al-Attiyah retains the lead after finishing eighth today, extending his distance with Loeb to 37 minutes and 40 seconds. 

 Images of Carlos Sainz: Audi Sport.

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