Carlos Sainz Sr., nicknamed “El Matador,” has achieved a historic fourth win at the Dakar Rally. He is the first driver to win the prestigious event four times with four different manufacturers: Volkswagen in 2010, Peugeot in 2018, Mini in 2020, and now Audi in 2024.
It is also historic for the Ingolstadt-based firm to prove it can win in the longest and most grueling motorsport event in a fully electric vehicle, the RS Q e-Tron, on the brand’s third and final attempt.
This is before Audi starts preparing to compete in Formula 1 for the 2026 season, which will feature the biggest rules change in technical regulations in recent times.
This year’s event was run over two weeks covering 12 stages in 8,000km of extreme desert environment in Saudi Arabia.
While Sainz never won a single stage, the Spaniard paced himself very well, racing smart and playing the long game. His competitors would wither away at each stage, including his key rival, the most successful WRC driver in history, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb, whom Sainz left behind thanks to consistent driving.
It was Loeb’s eighth appearance at the Dakar Rally, and was one of the favorites to win. But a mechanical malady in the penultimate stage saw Loeb stranded, and his chances of overall victory evaporated in the desert heat.
El Matador would eventually finish 80 minutes ahead of second-placer Belgian Guillaume de Mévius driving a specially prepared Toyota GR DKR Hilux rally raid vehicle.
As Audi retires from the Dakar Rally this year, Sainz Sr., who turns 62 years old in April, ponders his next move. He says he will take the time to assess what he wants to do next.
After winning the Dakar Rally four times, the FIA World Rally Championship twice in 1990 and 1992, plus his 26 individual wins in WRC, there’s still much that Sainz the Elder wants to achieve and conquer.