In less than two months time the Spanish legend will embark on one of the biggest challenges of his career: tackling the legendary Dakar Rally in a brand-new two-wheel-drive buggy that has been built and tested in less than four months.
This is no ordinary buggy though: it has been created by the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team, with Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah (who won the Dakar in 2010 and 2011 respectively) each taking the wheel in a two-car team.
Both fought each other hard through the South American pampas when they were Volkswagen team-mates in their Race Touaregs - but now they are on the same side, and Al-Attiyah says they are targeting victory.
“My dream has always been to win again,” said the Qatari. “And now we are here and we can win. The power and the torque of the buggy is very good; we have been pushing hard in testing to find the limits.”
The buggy was designed and built from scratch after the project, backed by Qatar and Red Bull, was given the final green light over the summer. Although it is only two-wheel drive, the buggy benefits from a unique suspension system, which the crews hope will hand them an advantage. Sainz will be co-driven by Timo Gottschalk from Germany while Spaniard Lucas Cruz lines up alongside Al-Attiyah. Testing so far has taken place in America, with Sainz positive about the results.
“It’s only a small team, but the motivation is huge,” said Sainz. “Time is our biggest enemy: we still have many things to sort out but this is normal with a new car. The driver line-up is very strong: if one day I was ever managing a team on the Dakar, the first driver I would choose would be Nasser.”
Dakar 2013 gets underway on 5 January in Lima, Peru, and finishes in Santiago, Chile, on 20 January after 8423 kilometres.