Last year’s Dakar Rally winner in the VW Touareg, Carlos Sainz, is looking forward to the latest edition of the endurance race, though he will be wary of the conditions.
Sainz contests the Dakar Rally in the new Volkswagen Race Touareg 3, together with navigator Lucas Cruz. Since Cruz became co-driver for his fellow Spaniard in the 2009 season, the duo are unbeaten in four consecutive rallies – including the 2010 Dakar Rally.
Sainz is reluctant to define one specific stage of the 2011 Dakar Rally as a special challenge. "Compared to the stages in Africa, it is the variety of the terrain in South America that impresses me the most,” confesses the Madrilenian.
"Beforehand the talk is frequently of very special challenges. For example, it is known from last year that the route between La Rioja and Fiambalá in Argentina was a type of rally-defining stage. This year we still hardly know what to expect, as the organizer has only released a few details.
"Following my career in the World Rally Championship, if there is one important lesson that I learned for desert rallies, it is this: You must approach the challenges thrown up every day with the greatest respect and always remain modest.”
"You must confront the dunes with respect." –Carlos Sainz
Sainz won two World Rally Championships in classic spring rallying, swapped to cross-country rallying with Volkswagen in 2005, won the 2007 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and has celebrated six victories up to now.
"The dune stages in the Atacama Desert and in the Cordilleras foothills will again certainly be a unique challenge,” says the defending Dakar title holder. "The sand in cross-country rallying represented the greatest change for me, because before I’d driven tens of thousands of kilometers on gravel. Sometimes you approach towering dunes like those around Copiapó. You have to sense and read the sand exactly on every single day, and you must confront the dunes with respect.
“Furthermore, every driver also simply needs a little luck. Even Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel, who are in my opinion certainly the best drivers in sand, got bogged down during the 2010 Dakar Rally. If you drive a tiny bit more to the right or left you can be lucky or, in the same way, be unlucky.
“Nobody knows what it looks like behind the dune, which is why I have coined the phrase in our cockpit: You can’t see through the sand. Two plus two does not necessarily make four in the desert!”