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“We are ready.”

“We are ready.”

Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz compete for Audi in what is probably the world's toughest rally. They explain what is important in the final days before the Dakar Rally in this interview.

Copy: AUDI AG - Photo: Julian Rausche, AUDI AG - Video: AUDI AG Lesezeit: 6 min

This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model.

Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in the cockpit of the Audi RS Q e-tron.Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in the cockpit of the Audi RS Q e-tron.

Lucas, Carlos, Mr. Sainz, Mr. Cruz, after many tests, and a hard training: What is left to do personally ?
Lucas Cruz: I am also concentrating on raising my personal fitness levels those final few percent. Since we’ve received the last of the pre-race route information shortly before teh start, my role as co-pilot is mainly to familiarise myself with the terrain to the best of my ability.
Carlos Sainz: Wel, of course, do everything we can to be fit.

El Matador

The grand seigneur of international rallying, Carlos Sainz has been racing for over 40 years. Nicknamed El Matador, the Spaniard has won the Dakar Rally three times, the World Rally championship twice as well as one World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies title. Even before embarking on his racing career, Sainz was a top-class sportsman. In 1979, at the age of 16, he won the Spanish national squash championships.

Carlos Sainz prepares for a stint in the test vehicle.

Carlos Sainz sees parallels between the Four Rings’ Dakar project and quattro’s introduction to racing back in the early 1980s.

Only hard work and discipline will get you through the Dakar.

Carlos Sainz

View of a desert landscape across the rear of the Audi RS Q e-tron.View of a desert landscape across the rear of the Audi RS Q e-tron.

But the exact stages are announced just before the start of each stage?
Cruz: That’s right. We get the exact route information in the form of the road book about 15 minutes before each stage. That leaves very little time.
Sainz: In addition, every year, the philosophy behind the road book’s compilation changes. That is why we can only rely on the experience gleaned over the last few years to a very limited extent.

What do you mean by philosophy?
Sainz: I’m talking about the way it is written. We all understand things differently, which is why some road books prove easier to follow and others more difficult.
Cruz: That’s why it’s my job to interpret and translate the available information for Carlos. We don’t want any surprises.

The Dakar usually starts at the turn of the year. How do you celebrate the holidays?
We still get to celebrate the festive season with our families more or less normally. For New Year’s Eve, we’ll be on site at the Dakar. That’s no big deal because I’m used to spending that time with Lucas. As is traditional in Spain, I’ll share twelve grapes with him.
Cruz: Luckily, I normaly get to enjoy my birthday on 26 December with my family. But honestly, for us, the race already starts as soon as we pack our things and get on the plane. From this moment at the latest our mind is only on the Dakar.

What do you still need to do before the race starts?
Cruz: I try to adjust to the local time. When at site, it’s all about checking everything in and around the car as well as settling into the motorhome. You don’t get a second chance to do that once the rally is underways.
Sainz: That’s why you have to plan and pack your luggage very carefully. It’s very annoying to realize you’ve forgotten something when you’re stuck in the middle of the desert.

How do your families actually feel about all this?
Cruz: My family supports me fully. After all, the Dakar only happens once a year and this is exactly the life I’ve chosen.
Sainz: My wife and I have been together for a long time and she understands that this sport and lifestyle make me happy. And she wants me to be happy. So, here we are.

The Veteran

As Carlos Sainz’s co-driver, Lucas Cruz has won the Dakar Rally three times so far. For twelve years now, the duo has contested cross-country rallies together. The two met in 1994, when Carlos headed up a project promoting young Spanish rally drivers. Cruz was one of the participants. Since then, the pair have forged a friendship.

Portrait of Lucas Cruz in racing suit.

Lucas Cruz is not only excited at the prospect of winning endurance rallies but also about the Audi RS Q e-tron* technology.

After all, this is exactly the life I’ve chosen.

Lucas Cruz

Audi RS Q e-tronAudi RS Q e-tron
Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during the handshake. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during the handshake.

Can your families at least visit you during the two-week-long rally?
Sainz: I think that’s possible and it would, of course, be nice to see each other in between. But we’ve neither considered nor done it before. After all, we are racing in remote areas.
Cruz: What’s more, we are always busy. Our days don’t begin and end with the stages. Before and afterwards, we work with the mechanics, prepare for the next stage and talk to the media. That leaves very little leisure time.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?
Cruz: We have our little habits, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Our daily routines are carefully planned and we stick to the schedule unless it makes sense to change something.

Nothing that could be called superstitions?
Sainz: I have been doing this for a long time and have gained a lot of experience. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that lucky charms and the like won’t get you anywhere. Only hard work and discipline will get you through the Dakar.

The Audi RS Q e-tron.

Motorsport up close

Find out everything about the Dakar Rally, the driver teams and the Audi RS Q e-tron*.