Carlos Sainz - Ford Escort WRC - 1997

Onboard footage from the dynamic duo Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya racing in the 1997 WRC championship.

It's obvious that modern rally cars are much faster but are they as fun to watch?




Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz


Carlos Sainz Cenamor (born April 12, 1962 in Madrid, Spain) is a Spanish rally ex-driver. He won the World Rally Championship drivers' title with Toyota in 1990 and 1992, and finished runner-up four times. Constructors' world champions to have benefited from Sainz are Subaru (1995), Toyota (1999) and Citroën (2003, 2004 and 2005).

Nicknamed El Matador, Sainz holds the WRC record for most career starts. He was also the first driver not from Scandinavia or Finland to win the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, and finished the Swedish Rally second four times and third twice, in this case without ever breaking the trend. Besides WRC successes, he has won the Dakar Rally (2010), the Race of Champions (1997) and the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (1990). His co-drivers were Antonio Boto, Luís Moya and Marc Martí.

His son, Carlos Sainz, Jr., born in September 1994, won the 2009 Junior Monaco Kart Cup and began a professional formula racing career.


Carlos Sainz - Luis Moya - 1997 - Ford Escort WRC
Carlos Sainz - Luis Moya - 1997 - Ford Escort WRC



Before moving into motorsport, multitalented Sainz played football and squash. As a teenager, Real Madrid gave him a trial and in squash he was the Spanish champion at the age of 16. He got his first touch of motorsport in Formula Ford while still playing squash and football. His parents hoped him to be a lawyer and were horrified when Sainz left university to concentrate full-time on his motorsport career.


Sainz began rallying in 1980, and won the Spanish Rally Championship with a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in 1987 and 1988. He first appeared in the World Rally Championship with Ford during the 1987 season, finishing seventh at the Tour de Corseand eighth at the RAC Rally. The following season, he finished fifth twice; at the Tour de Corse and at the Rallye Sanremo. Sainz then left Ford to join the Toyota Team Europe, the Japanese marque's rallying arm operating in Cologne, Germany.



Carlos Sainz - Luis Moya - 1997 - Ford Escort WRC
Carlos Sainz - Luis Moya - 1997 - Ford Escort WRC



Despite all previous rallying Toyota Celicas having only ever looked a competitive prospect on highly specialized endurance rallies such as the Safari Rally, the new combination of Toyota and Sainz rapidly rose in competitiveness. In the 1989 season, Sainz started with four retirements but then finished on the podium in three rallies in a row. His team-mate, by then two-time world champion Juha Kankkunen, also gave the Celica GT-Four ST165 its debut win at the inaugural Rally Australia. Sainz would almost certainly have won his first World Championship Rally on the final event of the season, the RAC Rally, but for mechanical failure in the final stages, which relegated him to second.

In the 1990 season, Sainz drove his GT-Four to victory at the Acropolis Rally, at the Rally New Zealand, at the 1000 Lakes Rally, as the first non-Nordic driver, and at the RAC Rally, claiming his first world drivers' title, ahead of Lancia's Didier Auriol and Kankkunen, ending the Italian marque's domination of the drivers' world championship since the advent of the Group A era of the sport in 1987.

In 1991, Sainz narrowly failed to defend his title against a resurgent Lancia-mounted Kankkunen, his efforts capped by a dramatic roll of his Celica in Australia which left him in a neckbrace. Both Sainz and Kankkunen took five wins, the first time in the history of the WRC that two drivers had managed such win tally during one season. Sainz led Kankkunen by one point going into the final round of the season, the RAC Rally, where Kankkunen took his third title by winning ahead of Kenneth Eriksson and Sainz. Kankkunen's and Sainz's point totals, 150 and 143, both broke the record set by Sainz a year earlier (140).

Aboard the new ST185 Toyota Celica in the 1992 season, in a year that would prove the last for the foreseeable future for Lancia, Sainz managed to score memorable victories on the Safari Rally and on his home asphalt round, the Rally Catalunya. The title fight again went down to the wire, and this time in a three-way battle; before the RAC, Sainz led Kankkunen by two points and Auriol, who had taken a record six wins during the season, by three points. Sainz's victory ahead of Ari Vatanen and Kankkunen, combined with Auriol's retirement, confirmed the title in favour of the Spaniard.

A limited number of 440 Celica GT-Four ST185s, carrying his name on a plaque in the vehicle, and with decals on the outside, were sold in the United Kingdom in 1992 in an attempt to capitalise on Sainz's two championship successes with the works team. These were the part of the 5,000 units of ST185 for WRC homologation. It is said that Sainz still keeps a Celica GT-Four given to him by Toyota, which he drives to Real Madrid games at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.


Such success, however, failed to coerce Sainz into staying with Toyota for the 1993 season. Instead, he moved to the private but Lancia-backed Jolly Club team. Although Lancia had won the previous year's manufacturers' title the Delta was an ageing design, and with minimal development work during the season it lost ground to newer cars. Sainz's only podium finish was his second place at the Acropolis Rally. He finished second on the San Remo Rally, but he and his team-mate were later disqualified for using illegal fuel. He finished eighth in the drivers' championship. Meanwhile, Lancia's factory team refugees Kankkunen and Auriol switched in the other direction to take his place at Toyota Team Europe, resulting in a title double for Toyota and Kankkunen.


Sainz then chose to drive for the then fledgling Subaru World Rally Team in 1994, where he replaced Ari Vatanen. Sainz's experience, perfectionism and abilities as a development driver played a vital role in developing the then-new Impreza to the point where it could mount a sustained challenge to Toyota and Ford. Indeed, in the hands of Sainz and Colin McRae the Subarus were frequently faster than the Fords during the season. Toyota won the manufacturers' title, but the drivers' championship was only settled on the final round, with Didier Auriol winning ahead of Sainz. In the 1995 season, he won theMonte Carlo Rally, the Rally Portugal and the Rally Catalunya. At this latter event he was trailing his team-mate Colin McRae until the team ordered the Scotsman to slow down and allow Sainz to win, which led to a dispute between the drivers. Nevertheless, they were tied for the lead in the drivers' world championship going into the season-ending RAC Rally. McRae won his home event 36 seconds ahead of Sainz, despite losing time with mechanical difficulties that at one stage had put him two minutes behind. Subaru secured their first manufacturers' title with a triple win as the team's second young Briton,Richard Burns, finished third. Sainz was later to join McRae at both Ford and Citroën.


Sainz responded by rejoining Ford for the 1996 season. He spent two seasons with the squad, aboard the Ford Escort RS Cosworth and latterly, the Escort World Rally Car. In 1996, he won the inauguralRally Indonesia and with five other podium finishes to his name, he took third place in the drivers' world championship, behind Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen and Subaru's McRae. In the 1997 season, he again won the Indonesian round, along with the Acropolis Rally, but again lost the title fight to Mäkinen and McRae. However, he won the Race of Champions at the end of 1997.


Sainz then departed, once again, for Toyota, partnering Didier Auriol and helping to further the Corolla World Rally Car project that had been instituted in 1997, as part of the Cologne recovery from the embarrassment of exclusion from the world championship on the penultimate round of the 1995 season.

Sainz won on his first outing for them, on the 1998 season opener Monte Carlo Rally, and later in the season, added a victory in New Zealand. The seemingly terminal blow to title rival Tommi Mäkinen's chances was his retirement on the first day of the final event of the year, the Rally Great Britain, which gave the initiative to Sainz, who now only had to finish fourth in order to ensure the title. However, just 300 metres from the finish of the very last stage, he too was forced to retire from the needed fourth place with a mechanical problem. As a result, both Sainz and Toyota gifted their respective titles to rivals Mäkinen and Mitsubishi Ralliart.[4]

A subdued season followed for Sainz in 1999, although it did at least culminate in a departing manufacturers' title for Toyota, by now fostering alternative interests in Formula One. Sainz took a total of eight podiums, but no wins, and finished fifth in the drivers' standings, behind his third-placed team-mate Auriol who had taken his only win of the season at the inaugural China Rally.


This was the precursor of another, three-year stint with Ford, again alongside McRae, beginning with the 2000 season. He won the inaugural edition of the Cyprusround of the world championship, and finished third in the drivers' points standings.

Sainz failed to score a victory on any rally during the 2001 season, but with five podiums and four other point-scoring finishes, he managed to keep himself in the title fight throughout the very closely contested season, eventually finishing sixth in the standings, only eleven points adrift of the champion, Subaru's Richard Burns. Meanwhile, team-mate McRae took three wins and led the championship before the season-ending Rally GB, where he crashed out. Ford also lost the manufacturers' title to Peugeot.

In 2002, Sainz inherited the victory of the Rally Argentina, having provisionally finished third, by virtue of the disqualifications of the two leading Peugeots of Marcus Grönholm and Burns. This was his only win of the season, and in a close fight for the second place in the drivers' championship, behind the dominant Grönholm, Sainz finished third, one point ahead of his team-mate McRae.


Effectively frozen out along with McRae at Ford, he along with the Scot moved to Citroën for the 2003, during which he scored one win in Turkey – which was the first gravel event win for Citroën Xsara WRC – and finished third in the championship. Sainz continued with the team in 2004 season, and scored his final world rally victory at the 2004 Rally Argentina. During the Rally Catalonya 2004, after announcing his retirement, Sainz was onsidered by drivers, codrivers and directors of the official teams, as the best rally driver of history. In the championship, Sainz finished fourth, after missing out the final rally in Australia, due an accident during pre-event recce.

Despite formally retiring at the end of the 2004 season, with a possible view to moving into the World Touring Car Championship, he was to actually find himself invited back to the WRC fold on the request of Citroën, to replace the faltering Belgian driver François Duval. Although Duval was soon to reclaim his seat, Sainz's two rallies back in the Citroën impressed many, with the now 43-year-old Spaniard posting fourth and third finishing positions respectively.


2006 saw a first participation for Sainz at the wheel of a Volkswagen in that year's Dakar Rally, sharing the cockpit with the two times winner of the Dakar Rally, Andreas Schulz. In 2007, he repeated his attempt with Volkswagen, this time with French Michel Perin, also a former winner of the raid. Following the resignation of Fernando Martin, he even ran, eventually in vain, for the vice-president position at his beloved football club Real Madrid C.F., for which he once trained. In 2007 Sainz won the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup with the Volkswagen team. In 2008, he won the Central European Rally. In January 2009, partnering again with Perin, he led the Dakar Rally until crashing out on the 12th stage. Later in 2009 Sainz won Silk Way Rally with Volkswagen team. At the 2010 Dakar Rally, Sainz changed again co-pilot, teaming with the also Spanish Lucas Cruz. Sainz edged out teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah to take his maiden win in the event. In 2010 Sainz also won the Silk Way Rally for the second time. In 2011 Dakar Rally Sainz finished 3rd.

Sainz entered Dakar Rally 2013 in a brand-new two-wheel-drive buggy. His team-mate was former Dakar-winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and the team was supported by Qatar and Red Bull.  Sainz won the first stage, but faced later various problems and was finally forced to retire on the sixth stage due to an engine failure. After the retirement Sainz commented that despite the result, "it was worth coming here with this concept ... I hope the experience will be useful for the future even if I'm not sure whether I'll come back”. However, later Sainz announced he would like to be part of Qatar Red Bull Rally Team and return to the Dakar in 2014.

As Volkswagen announced its WRC entry for 2013, Sainz was announced to be part of the WRC project. Volkswagen's motorsport director Kris Nissen told that he needed "10 seconds" to convince Sainz to remain part of the company's efforts in the new programme. Nissen told that the team would need Sainz for some testing of the new car. In November 2011, Sainz had the honour to drive first kilometres with the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC near Trier, Germany, when the team began testing the new car. Late 2011, Nissen also revealed he would like to see Sainz taking part in some rally with the WRC Polo before he calls time on his career. Early 2012 Sainz drove Polo WRC in its maiden gravel test in Spain with Sébastien Ogier and in summer he tested Polo WRC in Finland. In October Sainz re-joined his old co-driver Luis Moya again and preformed course car duties on the San Marino´s annual Rally Legend event with Volkswagen's new-for-2013 Polo R WRC. In December 2012 Sainz dismissed the rumours he would drive Polo WRC in some WRC-rally in 2013, but stated he was available for testing, if needed.

Sainz also returned to competing in 2012, as he entered a historic rally with his old co-driver Luis Moya in Spain. The pair competed in Porsche 911 rally car and won the rally. The pair made a return to historic rallies in March 2013 by winning Rally de España Histórico with Porche 911.



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