Carlos Sainz has presented his plans for the Dakar 2020, which will be held for the first time in Saudi Arabia from January the 5th to the 12th, at a press conference in the Mini headquarters in Madrid.
Sainz, for whom this will be the third year competing for the German firm, has shared his goals and impressions before the appointment. Despite having suffered considerably at the 2019 edition, ‘El Matador’ maintains the same spirits as well as his usual determination:
“I think we can put up a fight for the win in this Dakar. I have the same passion for racing. I live every test and evaluation with great intensity. Undoubtedly the reason we are still here is because our motivation remains intact.”
Endowed with great vitality, Carlos Sainz aspiration is to beat his own record as the oldest Dakar winner in history, an honour he won when he was 55 years of age:
“I am not more experienced than (Stephane) Peterhansel, but I am older. I would like to extend the oldest Dakar winner record to 57 years old”.
As far as rivals go, he believes Nasser Al-Attiyah to be the most dangerous and the rest of Toyota Team: De Villiers, Ten Brinke … and Fernando Alonso.
Last but not least, he would also have to beat his partner in the Mini team, Stéphane Peterhansel, and there is a reason why he is known as Monsieur Dakar.
Regarding the car JCW Buggy (X-Traid Team) that both he and Peterhansel will be driving this year, Sainz has spoken about how this has evolved and improved from previous versions:
“This will be the car’s third Dakar. The first one was quite hard. Last year it took an important step forward, the car was reasonably fast, but we had some problems that delayed us, such as the inflating of the wheels, something that was also key in that terrain”.
“That issue has now been solved and this year is time to capitalize on all that work carried out in the past. Work has also been done on the weight of the car, which is one of the great advantages of the two driving wheels. This year we will be closer to the minimum weight. We are excited and we are going to put up a battle with Toyota, which are the favourites”.
Sainz has also addressed the issue of the Rally’s new host country, Saudi Arabia, and has expressed the uncertainty felt by participants:
“The Dakar enters a new phase, although the new host country meets all of the criteria for the rally to be at its best. The greatest uncertainty is what we are going to find. In theory, the first week is more about tracks and stony roads, more similar to Morocco, and in the second week there seems to be a lot more sand, dunes and desert.”
With the fresh memory of his latest rally in Saudi Arabia, Sainz has also spoken about his sensations on the ground. In particular and has made particular emphasis on the early onset of dusk as one of the most relevant new factors to consider:
“The area where we were is different from that where the Dakar will run, but I think the terrain is going to be very open. Dust may be less problematic than on other occasions”.
“The other positive and helpful thing is the race schedule, although I was very surprised to see that at 5 is already dark which means any mistake or mechanical problem will take you into the night.”
As for his early Saudi experience, Carlos Sainz didn’t quite elucidate whether a buggy like his (2×4) or a 4×4 will be better suited to the new terrain:
“It will depend on each type of special. Toyota has surprised us because being a 4×4 with a smaller suspension achieves a surprising pace in uneven terrain, which is where we are supposed to have an advantage. If the route is uneven but with all kinds of stones, where our tires are less likely to puncture, we will have an advantage. But we will have to wait and see.”
Finally, speaking about the debut of his friend Fernando Alonso, he has made it clear that this will be a major challenge for him:
“His first experience in a speciality so different from Formula 1 will be a difficult one but his preparation has been very thorough, more than I would have expected”.
“The first year is going to be difficult, but he is very adaptable. Fighting for victory will be complicated for him, but this is a race in which many things can happen.”
Images of Carlos Sainz: Toyota.