Sainz rues ‘unacceptable’ issues on Audi’s first Dakar

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Carlos Sainz has lamented the time lost to navigational issues and reliability problems on Audi's first Dakar, but has been heartened by his new car's raw pace

Sainz lead

Sainz has suffered a series of navigation and reliability problems

Audi

Carlos Sainz has rued the time lost to navigation and reliability issues on his Audi Dakar debut, describing the roadbook troubles are “unacceptable”, but adding that “without problems, we have always been fast”, in what has been a highly eventful rally for the WRC legend so far.

Last year the event changed its navigation rules, with teams only given the directional roadbook 15 minutes before a stage, instead of 24 hours, during which time they would make notes.

“I was angry because it was a clear mistake” Carlos Sainz

Sainz lost considerable time on his way to third overall at the 2020 Dakar, describing the rally as too dependent on navigation and likening it to a “gymkhana”. Sébastien Loeb echoed the Spaniard’s thoughts, describing the current Dakar set-up as a “race of co-drivers”

Fast-forward to 2022 and this time the Spaniard was beset by navigation issues again, losing two hours on the first full stage of blue-riband rally raid which effectively killed his event, with Loeb also looking like he has fallen out of contention after losing his way on Stage 6. Despite several days passing since, Sainz has no less ire on the matter.

“I was angry because it was a clear mistake,” he told Motor Sport on the Dakar rest day at its halfway point. “I don’t care what anyone says. Now I’ve seen the roadbook, I’m not a navigator but I’m clever enough to see and tell you. I saw the [incorrect] instructions towards the way point – it was a mistake.”

Sainz 2

The WRC legend has been left unimpressed by the roadbook issues

Audi

Rally director Davide Castera refuted queries over the roadbook earlier this week, describing it as a “very simple note”, but Sainz is convinced otherwise.

“I’ve done enough Dakars already to know,” Sainz said. “It was very serious [enough] that the organisation should have reacted to that mistake.”

Audi has put huge investment into its new RS Q e-tron electric prototype for its debut Dakar assault, and Sainz lamented that arguably going to waste in the short term.

“To lose the effort of one year, the investment of one year, it’s not acceptable,” he said.

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Ultimately the roadbook error became academic as the Spaniard then suffered a number of mechanical issues, including a damaged bearing whilst leading on Stage 4, then two broken dampers on the next pair of stages and a loose wheel flying off after fixing the latter problem. Prior to that the Audi prototype has shown winning pace, with Sainz going fastest of all on Stage 3.

After running the full gauntlet of Dakar emotions, the two-time WRC champion still looks at Audi’s performance so far in a positive light.

“I think we need to be happy,” he said. “We need to have in consideration that we never competed before this event.

“At the end of the day we are missing the competition[s] to fine tune and I must say I’m happy because we won a stage – but it could have been another one.

“Without problems, we have always been fast and this is very encouraging for the future. The reality is we’re having problems we didn’t expect, like the dampers.

Sainz celebration

A stage 3 win showed the raw pace of the Audi RS Q e-tron

Audi

“The whole hybrid system is working fine, we expected more problems in that area than in the hardware.”

Whilst the electric prototype, which has only one gear, is a completely different prospect to the ICU vehicles, Sainz is deriving driving pleasure from the electric prototype.

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“Especially in the dunes, I must say I’m having good fun,” he said

“We have the handicap of the weight [the car is 200kg over the minimum weight limit of 2 tonnes]. Which is why I see signs of a bright future because if we can put the weight down, it really would be a very good help.”

When asked if he thought the second week’s terrain and conditions would favour the Audi, Sainz was unsure, yet still cautiously optimistic.

“To be honest I have no idea what we are going to face,” he said. “I know we’re a lot better prepared than one week ago.

“I would like to make the exercise for me like Dakar is starting tomorrow. I know of course for certain drives it’s not like this but…

“Have a good, clean second week – try to win as much as possible.”

Sainz managed to do just that on today’s Stage 7, finishing third behind winner Sébastien Loeb and overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah.