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Dakar 2024: What made Carlos Sainz and Cruz’s victory so special

History has been made once again. Carlos Sainz Sr. etched his name in the annals of Dakar history as he secured a remarkable victory in the 2024 edition as the oldest to have won it. The 61 years old had also the incredible opportunity to become the first driver to triumph with four different brands in the race, and with co-driver Lucas Cruz, they led a team that arrived at Dakar with more than just the intention to participate.

Credit: Dakar Media/Red Bull Pool

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On the third attempt, success smiled upon them, with an overwhelming ending. On the toughest Dakar, after three years of audacious efforts by Audi, the German team achieved the greatest award.

Despite three punctures on stage one and many problems during the first part of the race, even with no victories the Spanish duo managed to optimise all 12 results and come out on top. Characterised by many difficulties and many, many penalties, we find out how the Audi team’s feat was possible to triumph this year.

Strategic Brilliance: Navigating the 48-Hour Format

One of the pivotal moments in Sainz’s path to victory was the strategic brilliance displayed in navigating the unique 48-hour format. After completing the fifth stage, Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz devised a plan to avoid leading at all costs in the following day’s stage. This unconventional strategy raised eyebrows, but it paid off spectacularly in the Empty Quarter. While victory eluded Audi in that stage and were outside the top ten, the consistent performance of the Spanish duo and their deliberate delayed starts catapulted them into a lead that proved unassailable. Stage 6A proved them right, being the first to finish it taking the lead of the general classification.

Nasser Al-Attiyah’s approach stands in stark contrast: the Qatari driver, emphasizing not only his driving prowess but, more crucially, the navigational expertise of his co-driver Mathieu Baumel, will find himself taking on the challenging role of a trailblazer by securing the top position. This role becomes particularly significant in what is expected to be the most demanding stage of the entire Dakar 2024.

Al Attiyah’s Departure: A Turning Point

The early departure of Nasser Al Attiyah, a strong contender in the competition, served as a turning point in the Dakar narrative. Facing reliability issues from the start, Al Attiyah’s Hunter encountered a series of setbacks, culminating in an engine failure in the eighth stage. A subsequent power steering failure forced an early exit from the race. Al Attiyah’s decision not to continue due to a lack of guarantees left his fellow competitors, including the likes of Sebastien Loeb, without potential allies in the face of unforeseen challenges.

 Carlos Sainz Dakar 2024

Stones in the Path: Loeb’s Unfortunate Encounter

The winning duo was well aware that winning stages brings more disadvantages than advantages, something Sebastian Loeb did not take into account. In fact, the German was the favourite for victory with just a few stages to go, but luck was not on his side. As the Dakar rally approached its climax, the organizers warned participants of a decisive penultimate stage, where luck would play a crucial role. This stage proved pivotal for Sainz as his rival, Sebastien Loeb, encountered a substantial setback. Striking a large rock, Loeb’s Hunter suffered a broken front right fork after a rough landing, effectively ending his aspirations for victory. Despite a last-minute assistance from a Chinese team, the damage was irreparable. This incident not only showcased the unforgiving nature of the Dakar terrain but also solidified Sainz’s lead.

Ekström’s Teamwork Defines Audi’s Rally Approach

In a notable demonstration of teamwork and mutual support during the Dakar 2024, Mattias Ekström emerged as a crucial figure for his Audi teammate Carlos Sainz. Ekström’s timely assistance, providing three much-needed tires when Sainz faced a critical shortage, played a pivotal role in salvaging the Dakar journey for the Spanish driver. This act of solidarity marked the second occasion that Ekström came to Sainz’s rescue, underscoring the strength of team support within the Audi squad.

The Swedish driver, an integral part of the team in Extreme E, humorously reflected on the situation, emphasizing the strategic advantage of collective efforts over individual endeavors in the challenging Dakar terrain. As Ekström hinted at a potential third instance, the unfolding dynamics within Team Audi underscore the essence of collaboration and mutual reliance in the demanding Dakar rally, showcasing the integral role played by teammates in navigating the unpredictable challenges of the competition.

Imma Aurino

Classe '97, la passione per i motori mi accompagna fin da bambina grazie a mio padre. Studio comunicazione a Torino dopo tante scelte sbagliate, ma almeno questa sembra essere quella giusta.

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