• Home
  • “We are ready.”

“We are ready.”

The Dakar Rally kicks off on 1 January. For the first time, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz will be part of what is arguably the Four Rings’ toughest motorsporting challenge. As the pair complete their extensive preparations, they look ahead to the days before the chequered flag drops.

Text: AUDI AG - Photos: Julian Rausche, AUDI AG - Film: AUDI AG Reading Time: 6 min

Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in the cockpit of the Audi RS Q e-tron.
Rally legend Carlos Sainz (front) met his future co-driver Lucas Cruz in 1994. Over their roughly decade-long partnership, the pair have won the Dakar Rally together three times so far.

Lucas, Carlos, the start of the 2022 Dakar Rally is fast approaching. You completed a final endurance test at the end of November in the desert of Morocco. How did things go in Africa?

Carlos Sainz: It was a very rich experience. The opportunity to drive the car a lot and get a feel for the way it works has given us great confidence. We even ran into a small problem but were able to work through it. Ultimately, it helped us move forward.

Lucas Cruz: I agree. Just being able to drive the car over 400 kilometres in one go under comparable conditions gave us a very good feeling. We are ready.

 

What is now left to do personally?

Sainz: Since I’m competing in the Extreme E race series just before Christmas, I face a bit of a challenge with my personal preparation, but will, of course, do everything I can to be fit.

Cruz: I am also concentrating on raising my personal fitness levels that final few percent. Since we’ve now received the last of the pre-race route information, my role as co-pilot is mainly to familiarise myself with the terrain to the best of my ability.

El Matador

Carlos Sainz prepares for a stint in the test vehicle.

El Matador

The grand seigneur of international rallying, Carlos Sainz has been racing for over 40 years. Nicknamed El Matador, the 59-year-old 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’ new 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.
The Audi RS Q e-tron¹ is ready for the challenge – and so is the rest of the Audi Sport team.

¹This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt.

¹This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt.

Aren’t the exact stages only 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. I hope we do well with this year’s one.

Cruz: That’s why it’s my job to interpret and translate the available information for Carlos. We don’t want any surprises.

 

Considering the Dakar starts on 1 January, how do you celebrate the holidays?

Sainz: We leave for the race on 27 December, so we still get to celebrate the festive season with our families more or less normally. For New Year’s Eve, we’ll be in Saudi Arabia. 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 still get to enjoy my birthday on 26 December with my family. But honestly, for us, the race already starts on 27 December. The moment you pack your things and get on the plane, your mind is only on the Dakar.

 

How do your families feel about 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 is what makes me happy. And she wants me to be happy. So, here we are.

The Veteran

Portrait of Lucas Cruz in racing suit.

The Veteran

As Carlos Sainz’s co-driver, 46-year-old Spaniard 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-tron¹ technology. ¹This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt.

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

Lucas Cruz

Audi RS Q e-tron
The moment of truth: With its technological approach, the Audi RS Q e-tron¹ will undergo a baptism of fire at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on 1 January 2022.

¹This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt.

¹This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt.

The 2022 Dakar Rally

The 2022 Dakar Rally

The 2022 Dakar Rally

On 1 January, the 2022 Dakar Rally kicks off with the prologue from Jeddah to Ha’il. The first, 334-kilometre loop stage starts and ends in Ha’il on 2 January. Covering 465 kilometres between Al Qaysumah and Riyadh, stage four on 5 January is the rally’s longest competitive special. On 8 January, participants can look forward to a rest day in Riyadh. All twelve stages including the final one from Bisha back to Jeddah on 14 January add up to a total of 8,375 kilometres, including 4,258 kilometres of competitive specials. Audi will provide daily information on the course of the race from the start of the rally. Until then, you can relive the "Road to Dakar".

The 2022 Dakar Rally
Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during the handshake.
During a rally like the Dakar, participants have milliseconds to decide which route to take. That’s why Lucas Cruz and Carlos Sainz believe mutual understanding and trust are crucial to success in these races.

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.

 

When you arrive in Saudi Arabia on 27 December, what do you still need to do before the race starts?

Cruz: Spain is two hours ahead Saudi Arabia, which means we have to adjust to the local time. Apart from that, 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 gets underway.

Sainz: That’s why you have to plan and pack your luggage very carefully. It’s very annoying if you’ve forgotten something when you’re stuck in the middle of the desert.

 

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-tron¹ here and stay up to date with the start of the rally on 1 January 2022.

Read more

¹This vehicle is the Dakar Rally race car; it is not available for purchase. Closed course, professional driver. Do not imitate.

¹This vehicle is the Dakar Rally race car; it is not available for purchase. Closed course, professional driver. Do not imitate.

Your browser does not seem to be up to date. Maybe our website does not work optimally. Most browsers (but not MS Internet Explorer 11 & older) work fine.
We recommend you to update your web browser!
The latest version can ensure a good result anywhere on the internet.

Thank you very much for your visit.

Your Audi Team