This week it’s the Matador, Carlos Sainz, the WRC title winner in 1990 and 1992.
Sainz was known as the ‘Matador’: partly because of the ruthless slaying of his opponents on the stages and partly because of the intensity of his persona, which would not look out of place in the middle of a bullring (although ironically Sainz does not especially approve of bullfighting).
His winning record but also his consistency is staggering: between the years of 1987 and 2004 he was constantly on top of the sport, with no real decline. With the exception of a couple of seasons when he didn’t have the car or the luck for it, Sainz won at least one rally during every year of his career.
“Looking back at it, maybe that’s what I am most proud of,” he reflects. “We were always competitive from start to finish: we were never just making up the numbers.”
Proof of this came in 2005, when Sainz was asked to come out of retirement to deputise for the wayward Francois Duval at Citroen. Sainz finished his last world rally (Acropolis 2005) on the podium.
Since 2006, he has driven for Volkswagen on the Dakar Rally, finally winning the event in 2010. “I had to learn from scratch; nothing in the WRC prepares you for Dakar,” he pointed out. As well as that, Sainz has a number of business interests in his native Madrid, including his own kart track.
It was there that his son Carlitos first learned to drive a kart, and from the outset Sainz Jr’s talent was obvious. During his first season of racing cars in 2010 Carlitos won races in the highly competitive Formula BMW Europe Championship. Aged just 15.
Now, Sainz Jr has been picked up by Red Bull and is on the fast track to Formula One. “This is his dream and if he continues to work hard I will support him,” said his father. “I’ve had a fantastic career so maybe now it is time to think of his.”
But Sainz is still not entirely sure if his driving days are over. It all depends on Volkswagen: if the German make has one more crack at the Dakar, then the 49-year-old might be tempted by a final fling. Or instead, Sainz might slot into a testing or management role at Volkswagen’s much-rumoured WRC team. He’s not giving much away though.
“First of all, they need to announce what they are going to do,” concluded Sainz. “Then after that, we can see what might be possible for me to do. I’m in no hurry.”
Which in the life of Carlos Sainz, is a bit of a first.