Spanish pilot Laia Sanz has announced she is making the leap to cars in the upcoming edition of the Dakar Rally in 2022. After having taken part in eleven editions of the legendary raid, she feels that the time has come to change the handlebar for the steering wheel.
The 35-year-old racer, however, has acknowledged that it was a “difficult decision to make” considering she has been a motorcycle pilot for her entire career.
“It was a difficult decision, but I think it was the ideal time to make a change. You are more aware of the risk and, in addition, the last two years have not been easy at all due to health issues” – Laia Sanz said during the opening of the new facilities of her sponsor KH7, which was where she chose to make her important announcement.
“I probably did not come to the Dakar as prepared as I would have liked and I have not enjoyed it as much. I am not 20 years old anymore and it is an ideal time to start to make a change”, She commented in relation to her last race in the desert where a series of injuries diminished her chances of success.
“I will surely miss it, but now is the time to learn and live new things and that motivates me a lot” , Laia concluded.
An intense training period
In recent months, there were several signs pointing to an imminent change of course. Speculations skyrocketed this season when she entered the new ‘off-road’ competition.
It is at the Extreme E, for electric SUVs only, that she is sharing both team and car with Carlos Sainz. In addition to this valuable experience with the Odyssei 21, she has also driven a MINI 4X4, among others.
Back to the present, and this very weekend she will be competing in the R2Xe World Rallycross event at the Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, with the aim of getting more experience and kilometres with a car under her belt.
A few days later in October, she will start the next round of the Extreme E, the Island X Prix which will be held in Sardinia (Italy). Prior to these, back in May, she competed in the Andalusian Rally in a MINI 4×4, as she also did in the Dubai Baja.
Despite barely having competed with a car, her vast experience accumulated through her eleven appearances in the Dakar on a motorcycle will be of great help to her in the transition from two to four wheels. As explained by the pilot herself:
“Everything I do can be of help. The ‘coco’ which I have always had for the motorcycle could be very useful for me to learn about the car. “
Still unknown is the team and type of vehicle with which she will undertake this new Dakar adventure. She is expected to be negotiating with the X-Raid team to get behind the wheel of a MINI 4×4, although this has not yet been made official.
A legendary motorcycling track record
‘The Queen of the Desert’ has written one of the golden pages of the toughest rally in the world, in the motorcycle category. Along with her incredible competition record and proficiency in the desert, where she finished every single one of the editions she entered, is her memorable performance of 2015.
That year she got her best result, an astonishing ninth place, garnering countless accolades.
The quality of her motorcycle racing is made evident by the incredible track record that she holds in other disciplines. No wonder she has recently been proclaimed the Women’s Trial World Champion for the fourteenth time!
Images: Laia Sanz Twitter.