Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz Sr says he is “proud” that he managed to overcome the “handicap” that his X-raid Mini faced relative to Toyota.
Two-time World Rally champion Sainz clinched his third victory on the legendary off-road event on its first visit to Saudi Arabia at the wheel of one of X-raid’s two-wheel-drive Mini JCW Buggy contenders, beating Toyota rival Nasser Al-Attiyah by six minutes.
In doing so, the 57-year-old added to his previous triumphs taken in 2010 (with Volkswagen) and 2018 (with Peugeot), beating his own record for the Dakar’s oldest winner.
Al-Attiyah said in the aftermath of his defeat that he felt the rulebook was tilted in favour of the Mini buggies of Sainz and Stephane Peterhansel, who finished third, but the Spaniard was keen to point out that Toyota had the numerical advantage in terms of entries.
“I feel, as you can imagine, very happy,” said Sainz. “It has been a difficult Dakar, where we have gone flat out from day one to the last, we have also had two great competitors in Nasser and Stephane. And proud of this victory with this new car.
“At the beginning of the race there were many Toyotas and only two Mini two-wheel drive [buggies], which looked like a handicap. I knew that the race was going to be between Nasser, Stephane and me and it has been. It has been very [hard] fought until the end.
“This is one of those [victories] of which one can feel proud. The other wins do not have to be devalued, they are different. But they are all with a different car too… very happy.”
Asked if he thought he would return to the Dakar in 2021 to defend his title, Sainz replied: “I don’t know. The first thing I want to do is rest, recover; the stress has been high, the wear has been strong.
“But, knowing me, within three or four days the head starts to work.”
Besides those of Sainz and Peterhansel, X-raid managed to get two more of its cars to the finish inside the top 10, the four-wheel drive Mini JCW Rally machines of Orlando Terranova (in sixth) and Yasir Seaidan (in ninth).
A shock stage win for Lithuanian driver Vaidotas Zala at the start of the rally also boosted Mini’s tally of stage wins to nine, with Sainz and Peterhansel scoring four apiece.
Reflecting on the rally, X-raid boss Sven Quandt told Motorsport.com: “We are absolutely overwhelmed by this great team result; first and third places we didn’t expect.
“It was a fantastic race, marked by many battles at the top. Carlos and Stephane did an outstanding job and the performance of our Mini JCW fleet was absolutely fantastic.
“After so many years of fighting, we are happy to have finally won the Dakar again with our Mini cars. To finish with four Mini in the top 10 and eight in the top 20 shows our reliability.”
#302 JCW X-Raid Team: Stephane Peterhansel, Paulo Fiuza
Photo by: A.S.O.
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