Carlos Sainz, a Spaniard, made history on Friday by winning the Dakar Rally at the age of 61. This marked his fourth victory in the car category and a first for Audi.
Carlos Sainz Jr., a Ferrari Formula One driver, celebrated with his father, known as the ‘Matador,’ at the finish line in Yanbu on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast.
Ricky Brabec, an American Honda rider, secured his second win in the motorcycling category. Meanwhile, Spaniard Cristina Gutierrez triumphed in the lightweight Challenger class, becoming the second female to claim a title after Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2001.
Ireland’s Oran Kelly, riding for Vendetta Racing UAE, finished 57th overall in the bike category after more than 75 hours of racing.
Sainz finished one hour, 20 minutes, and 25 seconds ahead of Belgian debutant Guillaume de Mevius for Overdrive Toyota, with Sebastien Loeb of France, a nine-time world rally champion, securing third place overall.
Despite being Sainz’s main rival, Loeb faced mechanical problems on Thursday. However, he concluded with a fifth stage win in his team’s Prodrive Hunter from Bahrain Raid Xtreme.
New challenge for Audi
Audi, now turning attention to their Formula One entry in 2026, became the first to win with a car powered by an electric drivetrain. The Audi RS Q e-tron uses an energy converter, featuring a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, to charge the car’s high-voltage battery while driving.
Sainz expressed his happiness for Audi and emphasized the special and challenging nature of the car. He credited hard work for his success and reflected on the need for dedication to stay competitive at his age. Looking ahead, Sainz plans to enjoy the victory before contemplating his future in the coming weeks.
Four Brands and Four Wins
Sainz has won the Dakar Rally with four different car brands: Volkswagen in 2010, Peugeot in 2018, and Mini in 2020. This time, he and co-driver Lucas Cruz didn’t win any individual stages but got help from teammates Stephane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekstrom, who provided spare tires after dropping out of the race themselves.
Qatar’s defending champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah, couldn’t finish in his Prodrive Hunter. Sainz’s victory ties him with Ari Vatanen in the all-time rankings, with only Al-Attiyah (five) and Peterhansel (eight) having more wins.
Brabec finished over 10 minutes ahead of Botswana’s Ross Branch, with Adrien van Beveren from France in third place. Brabec mentioned that this win felt more earned and tougher compared to 2020.
In other categories, Manuel Andujar from Argentina won the quad category, Martin Macik from the Czech Republic took the truck title in his Iveco, and Xavier de Soultrait from France became the SSV (side-by-side) champion.
About the Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally started in 1978 as a race from Paris to Senegal but moved to South America in 2009 for security reasons. In 2020, it shifted to Saudi Arabia and now serves as the flagship of the FIA world rally-raid championship.
Upon finishing the race, Ireland’s Oran Kelly expressed his emotions, stating it was a super emotional experience. His team revealed that he is the first to represent Ireland in the Dakar Rally in over 15 years. Kelly described the past week as one of the most mentally and physically challenging but expressed a sense of accomplishment, emphasizing that finishing the race is like climbing Mount Everest.