Carlos Sainz: “Passion is what keeps me going”

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Carlos Sainz:

“There is nothing left” to do at the Audi factory ahead of the next Dakar. After a “long and expensive” wait Carlos Sainz (60 years old, Madrid) is prepared for a new visit to the desert, in which he realistically aims for victory alongside a car that has found the exact measure between reliability and competitiveness to scare his rivals again. But also, he leads the controls to a pilot whose passion keeps him active at the same time that it has filled him with success, to reach this moment in his career with nothing to prove beyond the fact that “he is like a goat” for continuing to compete at this point. That would be the vision of the 25-year-old Carlos who, with a few more behind him, skeep dreaming with the same illusion as then but a few more titles, to which he hopes to add his fourth Touareg before hanging up his helmet.

“Have you activated the countdown yet?”

—The countdown began just after last year’s Dakar. The meetings we had after the Dakar are fundamental, because that is where this car, the E2, was born, and all the ideas to improve the first year on the Dakar were born. From there there is a process of building the car, a first test, a second test… and then we arrive at the Rally of Morocco. Therefore, the process has already begun, but it is true that Morocco is a fundamental part of this entire process.

Have you spent a lot of time at the Audi factory since then?

—It’s not so much the time, for us the important thing is to make a good analysis after the first Dakar among all the drivers, among all the engineers… There, obviously, all the things are exposed on the table about what needs to be improved and from there it is already a matter of engineers to give you solutions. Then it is when we began to test these solutions a bit, that new car that began to be tested in the month of July in Zaragoza at first. Then, later in Morocco where it was tested again with the improvements and little things that were seen in Zaragoza. From there, a final specification is made, which is the one with which we will run the Rally of Morocco with specifications for next year. For people to understand, next year’s specifications mean that we are going to go with less power than our competitors, because we think that it is more interesting to prepare well for the Dakar and go with the power it has to learn parts that can break. consumption, etc… exactly the same as the Dakar and not with more power than we could go.

—Talk about drawing conclusions, finishing making specifications, changes… Have you kept anything from last year’s car?

-A lot a lot a lot. Mechanically it is the same, mechanically it is exactly the same. Work has been done on the body, on the weight, on the suspensions, on the aerodynamics… but mechanically it is exactly the same.

“It is a race that is once a year, the wait is long and difficult”

Carlos Sainz

—How important has this weight reduction been and in what aspect do you notice it the most?

—The weight reduction is noticeable in everything, because it has not only been weight reduction, but it has been centralized in some way, the position has been optimized… So, the car is more precise when driving it, the car has less It drifts, obviously at less weight because you pass the bumps better, you brake later… In other words, we are not at 20 or 30 kg, but we are talking about a significant reduction of about 90 kg, which was the maximum we could reduce. We are still 100kg heavier than our competitors, but we are confident that we can hold our own.

—If everything goes as before, is there any aspect that worries you, such as reliability?

—No, reliability is the most important thing. You have named the keyword of the Dakar: reliability. You can have a very fast car that if on day 13 or 14 or before the end of the rally you have a problem or on day 5 or day 6, it doesn’t matter, the moment you have a problem in the Dakar you forget of the race and you have to wait for next year. It is a race that takes place once a year and therefore, that wait is long and difficult, which is why so much work is done on reliability. An infinite number of things can happen in the Dakar, it is such an open race that every day there can be a hundred thousand surprises, every kilometer there can be a surprise, there can be a mistake by the driver, a mistake by the co-driver… and what you deal with above all is that the car does not give you any problem.

—If you had to opt for one strong point of this car, what would it be?

—I would like to emphasize that we have a good balance between reliability and competitiveness. The truth is that we are satisfied with the tests, we have not had and have not suffered major problems, and we are confident that the car is reliable. One of the reasons why you go to Morocco, for example, is to check that in race conditions, because no matter how many tests you do at the end, the kilometers of the race are always different.

“Do you think there’s anything left to do or do they have the car they wanted?”

“There’s nothing left.” There is a moment when a brand prepares the Dakar, where you have to say up to here and from there, what you do is freeze the specification of the car, which is what we did in Morocco. If everything goes well and we have done our job well, there are simply two or three details that change between that race and the Dakar. On the contrary, if there is a big surprise, something unexpected happens, because an alarm light will come on, but it is not ideal. But the team there would still have some time to sort it out, that’s why it’s so important to go to Morocco.

“We are confident that we will fight for victory”

Carlos Sainz

—Last year the rivals confessed that Audi scared with its potential. Can you do it even more this year?

—I hope we do better than last year, but as long as the rules don’t penalize us from the start, they penalize us with weight. Although it is really impossible for us to go below the weight we have now, but on principle we should all go with the same weight, the same power, the same suspension travel, and it is difficult to understand why we have to go with 100 kg more . I repeat, it would be impossible to take them off, but that does not mean that as a principle it is a good rule.

—But despite the ballast you speak of, they see themselves as capable of winning.

—We see ourselves capable of fighting to win. We think so. I don’t have the crystal ball, I don’t know how much the others have improved, I don’t know how we’re going to go, what’s going to happen… but we’re confident that we’re going to fight for victory.

—The Rally of Morocco recovered part of its essence with more prominence for navigation. Do you think that this is a precedent for what awaits you on the Dakar?

-Sure. Surely because all the kilometers you do in the car with your co-pilot make the navigation more fluid later. It is a whole training process, a process of understanding if the people who have made this ‘roadbook’ (the one from Morocco), I have to find out because I don’t know, it’s the people who have done the Dakar. That would be a great advantage because in the end, in addition to reading the ‘roadbook’, you have to interpret them in some places. Therefore, if you work with the person or do a rally before the Dakar in which the same person has done the ‘roadbook’, it is an advantage to try to understand and interpret how that person defines or how that person understands the different complicated and not so complicated points of how to describe what is coming and the path to take, the bullets, etc. For the co-driver it is a good advantage, regardless of the fact that every kilometer that the co-driver and the pilot do before the Dakar is always good training.

“Making co-driver races should not be the goal. That is not the spirit that I knew when I arrived at the Dakar”

Carlos Sainz

—If Carlos Sainz had to ask something of the next Dakar, not counting the sporting goals, what would it be?

—I have done I think they are 14 or 15 dakars and indeed, in the last three dakars they have begun to introduce the so-called hidden ‘waypoints’. The philosophy of making the ‘roadbook’ has changed a bit, now trying to artificially complicate how to follow the ‘roadbook’. This has led to making mistakes and making it difficult to find the right path. I insist again, it is not navigation because for me navigation is going from one point to another through the desert with a course and that is not difficult. That’s very easy, when you make a mistake and they say ‘it’s had navigation problems’, no, it’s had problems with the ‘roadbook’ which is different from having navigation problems. There are times when the definition of a small crossing is hardly visible because it is difficult to interpret. You leave, you come back, you can’t find it… and it’s a simple crossroads but sometimes you can’t see it. It’s complicated and last year was really unheard of, 98% of the rally was going around to find a ‘waypoint’ where all those people took a long time. So, I believe that a race should be defined as that of Morocco. Of course the ‘roadbook’ is important and following the ‘roadbook’ and so on, but it should not be what decides a race because then we are giving more importance to navigation or co-drivers, when what really matters is who is going faster , who runs more, which car has more speed, which driver and car have more speed and have done better. I think co-driver racing should not be the goal, even with courses that are interpretable and make it more difficult. That is certainly not the spirit that I knew when I arrived at the Dakar. When I arrived at the Dakar, of course the co-driver, navigation, the ‘roadbook’ were important… I take that for granted because it’s a Dakar and it should be like that, but for it to become a bit of a lottery is too much.

—Now you need projects that motivate you for the Dakar. Does Audi’s do it in the long term?

—Audi’s is a three-year project and we are right now in the second. My commitment to Audi is the three years that we initially agreed on and it is the base project. If it is going to be extended or not, or if I am going to be there next year or not, it will be time to decide later.

—Fernando Alonso recently said that you were his inspiration for the way he continues to compete at his age.

—Well… Fernando is a very close friend of mine, I’m sure he said it with all the love in the world and I thank him. The passion that I have for this sport is probably so great that it is what drives me to continue at the age that I am, motivating myself to be here, to prepare for the Dakar, to get to the Dakar, to be competitive, to try to win, to be fighting there. to win… But obviously at this point in my sports career there is very little left, but I continue to enjoy it and when that moment arrives I will be happy and satisfied because I think it has been a long, extensive career and one that I cannot complain about. I have to thank many people and thank God because I have done what has been my passion.

“At my years, to be doing what I do, I have to be very crazy”

Carlos Sainz

—Talk about a career with many successes and above all very long. What would the 25-year-old Sainz think about the current one if he could see him right now?

“I’d say this guy is nuts!” (Laughter). After all my career, at my age to be now doing what I do because I have to be very crazy to do it. Now it is curious to see how in the golden age of rallies, many years ago in the World Cup in the 90s, there were many people who had not even been born yet and later they met me running the Dakar and they were surprised when the documentary came out, because I didn’t know anything about my previous stage in the World Rally Championship. I cannot complain, I have to give thanks as I have said because I have enjoyed doing what is my passion, what has been my dream. Now I am in a fantastic brand that allows me, at my age, to continue learning new technologies, mobility… Tuning up this car has been a fantastic challenge in which I have worked on things that I had never worked on before, such as the electric motor, the braking with the electric motors, the virtual differentials… in short, a series of things that until now had not been able to work. That at my age a brand like Audi trusts me to develop the car and put it to the test is obviously a source of pride and I am very grateful for it.

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