After engine failure put paid to his Dakar Rally 2013 campaign, Carlos Sainz's co-driver Timo Gottschalk has unfinished business in the Dakar Rally – and it’s clear that his goal is nothing short of victory in the 2014 Dakar.
RedBull.com: Timo, you’ve faced just about every problem there is in the Dakar Rally and really tested your skills as a mechanic – including plugging a leak with a sock. So do your socks still smell of petrol?
Timo Gottschalk : Yes…[laughs]. I still have a score to settle with the rally. Last year we got off to a great start – we even led a few times. But then we had to retire due to technical problems. So all you can tell yourself is, ‘OK, there’s always next year’. We've proved we can get a result and we'll be back next year.
RB: The route is quite different to last year – there’s less desert and more gravel. What surface do you prefer?
TG: Desert is part of the Dakar DNA, so there tends to be lots of desert stages. We started in Lima and the first few days were hard with lots of dunes, sand and open desert. This time we’re starting near Buenos Aires again, so there’s much more gravel in the early stages. But when we reach the Atacama Desert, we get to really savour the desert and dunes, which really suit our SMG Buggy. It’s important that we don’t lose too much time in the stages that are less favourable to us and make the most of the more favourable conditions.
RB: What is it about the Dakar that brings you back year after year?
TG: It's a great adventure. Two weeks that are so tough that reaching the finish line, not winning, is the greatest reward. Every year has its special moments and that’s what makes you come back.
RB: But at the end of the rally, do you find yourself swearing never to return?
TG: [Laughs] I think everyone feels the same. You're so tired, you need a few weeks to recover. But after a few months, you remember all the adventure and beautiful moments and start thinking about trying again. It’s truer now more than ever, because we had the pace to win but we didn’t finish. We have to try again.
RB: What is your goal this year?
TG: Winning! It's not easy: you need luck, you need to think clearly and drive intelligently. You have to get it right every day.
RB: People say that the most dangerous thing in the Dakar is to lose a lot of time one day and then push too hard to get it back the next...
TG: That's true. Especially in the desert. You have to be very careful because a problem like getting stuck in a sand dune can be solved in a few minutes or it can take a lot longer.
RB: What are the three essential items you always take with you to the Dakar?
TG: Almost everyone has something secret to bring them luck or family mementos to remind you of home. But to be honest, the Dakar is so demanding you don’t have time to think about anything else. Even the rest day is stressful.