Date of Birth:12 Apr 62
FIA Championship Titles:1990, 1992
WRC Rally Starts:196
WRC Rally Wins:26
Born in Spain in 1962, Carlos Sainz was a sportsman searching his sport. Despite being a national-level squash player and having trials for Real Madrid, he went for motorsport.
Sainz’s career spanned an extraordinary 196 rallies and 18 seasons, but few will forget his first ever world championship stage in 1987. Aged 24, he nosed his Ford into Estoril, the opening stage of Rally Portugal - and won it. He retired from the event, and departed Ford at the end of the following season, bound for Toyota and his first professional contract.
If knowledge is indeed power, then Sainz’s reign across the world championship should dwarf the two titles he left the sport with. The Spaniard’s thirst for the right set-up or the perfect tyre compound was unquenchable and set him apart from his contemporaries.
Sainz ended his first year with TTE with three podiums - a hint of what was to follow in 1990. His maiden WRC win came in Greece and he backed that up with three more and his first world title. Beyond being the best in the world, one of Sainz’s personal highlights came that year - becoming the first non-Scandinavian to win the 1,000 Lakes in Finland. That he did so with a broken ankle was testament to his bravery, skill and commitment.
Five more wins in the Celica followed in 1991, but the title just eluded him. No matter, it would be his once more the following season when he collected another four rally victories in the new shape Celica Turbo 4WD.
He then departed Toyota and drove for the Jolly Club Lancia team and Subaru before returning to pilot TTE’s all-new Corolla WRC. He enjoyed wins and came close to a title with the Impreza, but he was always happiest in a Toyota. He came heart-breakingly close to the 1998 title, only for his Corolla WRC’s engine to fail at the end of the last stage.
When Toyota quit WRC at the end of 1999, Sainz returned to Ford and remained a force at the front of the field, winning twice in a Focus. After that, it was Citroen for another brace of victories. Argentina, 2004 was his 26th win making him the then most successful driver of all time.
Records are made to be broken and Sainz’s soon was, but that will never detract from the one known as ‘El Matador’.