An eventful Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia is finally over for Carlos Sainz after the ninth stage in Saudi Arabia. The Spaniard had an accident on day six at the same spot as his Audi team-mate Stephane Peterhansel, which robbed him of any chance of victory.

But Sainz didn’t give up and made it to the finish after a long repair. A day later he stopped by his teammate Mattias Ekstrom and helped repair a damaged rear axle.

As a result, Audi lost all chances of a top result with the third car as well. In the eighth stage, Sainz had the chance to win the day. But he was too fast in a 30 km/h zone. Due to the time penalty, victory went to Sebastien Loeb (BRX).

In the ninth stage, Sainz rolled over a dune after just a few kilometers. The Audi’s monocoque was damaged in the process, which finally sealed the end of his race. Audi has thus lost two cars in accidents.

“My body hurts after that hard landing,” said Sainz. “There were a few days of hard hitting. This one measured 28g. At first I was in a lot of pain. But it’s gone away. I’m feeling better again.”

“It’s a disappointment. It’s disappointing for Lucas (Cruz, his co-driver; editor’s note), for me and for the whole Audi team. It reminds me a little of the beginnings with Volkswagen, which were very difficult , but then much [success] came.”

“I hope we have the chance to fight for victory with such a complicated car in such a complicated challenge in the future.” For Audi it was the second Dakar Rally with the unique hybrid concept.

The circumstances after the accident were exceptional. Sainz was flown out by helicopter, but then landed and he returned to his stranded car. “I was in pain,” says the 60-year-old.

“I asked the doctor to wait a bit to see if the pain subsided. He insisted that we fly to the hospital. After I talked to him for 20 minutes or half an hour, he prevailed.”

“I said, ‘If the doctors insist I go to the hospital, then I’ll go.’ After ten minutes, the pilot had to land because he could not fly and enter the coordinates of the hospital at the same time.”

“When he landed I said, ‘I want to try to get the car serviced. In the evening I’ll see if the pain goes away.’ I think it’s normal to try and keep going. We did that.”

He also managed to bring the car to the bivouac in Haradh. But the damage to the monocoque could not be repaired there. This means that only Ekström’s Audi is still in the race, seven hours behind.

“There are an infinite number of dunes,” says Sainz, describing his rollover: “We managed 70,000, but this time I misjudged the speed. I didn’t think there would be a hole there. Two meters to the left there wasn’t one either. It was my fault.”

If the car could have been repaired after stage nine, then he would have continued the race: “We would have continued to learn, so that we could get to know the ‘Empty Quarter’ better.”

“I always say that after the Dakar there is a phase in which you personally reflect and analyze everything. I go home and think. You always need a few weeks to recover after a Dakar. Especially when it’s as eventful as this was.”

“Then I will think about further plans and see what Audi wants to do. What are the plans for the future. There is time to decide. It’s good or bad at the Dakar that you have a year. But you have only one chance.”

Sainz made his way home on Wednesday. It was his seventh failure in his 16th Dakar participation. “We started the rally very well. The broken ball joint was unexpected. At that point I was leading the race.”

“Like the day before yesterday. If I hadn’t had the speed limit problem, I would have won the stage. I think we drove well, but things didn’t go as we would have liked. The Dakar is won, by driving more defensively than attacking.”

This article was written by Gerald Dirnbeck, co-author: Mario Galan

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