Carlos Sainz Sr. is still winning…
The 61-year-old Spanish rally driver has extended his record as the oldest winner of the Dakar Rally with his fourth victory in the car category and the first for Audi.
His son, Ferrari Formula One driver Carlos Sainz Jr., was there on Friday to embrace his beaming “Matador” father as the two-week motorsport marathon reached the finish in Yanbu on Saudi Arabia‘s Red Sea coast.
Sainz Sr. finished 1 hour, 20 minutes, 25 seconds ahead of Belgian debutant Guillaume de Mevius for Overdrive Toyota with France’s Sebastien Loeb, a nine-time world rally champion, third overall.
Loeb had been Sainz Sr.’s biggest rival until mechanical problems on Thursday, but he wrapped up with a fifth stage win in his Bahrain Raid Xtreme team’s Prodrive Hunter.
Audi, now expected to focus on its Formula One entry in 2026, is the first to win with a car powered by an electric drive train. 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.
“This car is so special. It’s so difficult to manage. It has been so difficult to make it work. … I’m so happy for Audi,” said Sainz Sr., who held the lead from Stage 6 after Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi crashed out. “To be here with my age and to stay at the level, you need to work a lot before. It’s not coming just like that. It shows that when you work hard, normally it pays off.”
Sainz Sr., who withdrew from last year’s event after fracturing his T5 and T6 vertebrae in a crash, has now won the Dakar with four different manufacturers, along claiming titles with Volkswagen in 2010, Peugeot in 2018 and Mini in 2020.
He and co-driver Lucas Cruz did it this time without winning any individual stage but with the assistance of teammates Stephane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekstrom, who helped with spare tires after going out of contention themselves.
Defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah failed to finish in his Prodrive Hunter.
The victory pulled Sainz Sr. level with Finnish great Ari Vatanen in the all-time rankings, with only Al-Attiyah (five) and Peterhansel (eight) winning more.
American Honda rider Ricky Brabec won the motorcycling category for the second time while Spaniard Cristina Gutierrez triumphed in the lightweight Challenger class to become only the second woman to take a title after Germany’s Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2001.
Argentina’s Manuel Andujar won the quad category, Czech driver Martin Macik took the truck title in his Iveco, and France’s Xavier de Soultrait was the SSV (side-by-side) champion.
The rally began in 1978 as a race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital but switched to South America in 2009 for security reasons.
One of the greatest challenges in motorsport, with competitors battling towering desert dunes and inhospitable terrain, it moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020 and is now the flagship of the FIA world rally-raid championship.