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Carlos Sainz Is Dakar’s Oldest Champion With 4th Title, Gives Audi Its First Win

The soon-to-be 62-year-old racer proved that experience and perseverance are key to winning the famed 5,000-mile race.
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The Dakar Rally is considered the most challenging and dangerous off-road race in the world, covering nearly 5,000 miles of grueling Saudi Arabian terrain over the course of two weeks. It appears no one told this to Spanish racing legend Carlos Sainz, as the 61-year-old swiftly clinched his fourth Dakar victory on Friday.

Sainz and Audi didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the race, something which is a feat in itself given the various conditions all 778 drivers and navigators have to face. The experienced Spaniard failed to win any individual stages, but it would seem that his steady and mostly error-free approach paid off in the end. The lack of stage wins prompted rumors around the paddock early on, with race contender Nasser Al-Attiyah even saying that the Audis would only “last three days before going home.” Al-Attiyah eventually retired from the race.

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Of course, the Audis lasted more than three days, and Sainz quickly became the leading car after the sister car driven by DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom encountered mechanical issues. By the final stage of the rally, it was Sainz with a healthy lead over the Toyota of Guillaume de Mevius and the Prodrive of yet another rallying legend, Sebastien Loeb.

Sainz’s countrywoman Cristina Gutierrez also won in the lightweight Challenger category, becoming just the second woman after Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2001 to clinch a category win.

“El Matador,” as he’s known in his home country, will turn 62 this April and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down yet. He has yet to say whether he’ll retire or continue racing in the Dakar after winning four titles with four different teams, though something tells me that this emotional fourth win will likely persuade him in either direction.

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