Carlos Sainz after the stage 9 of Rally Dakar 2022 from Wadi Dawasir to Wadi Dawasir, Saudi Arabia on January 11, 2022.
© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

How Carlos Sainz became a pioneer of Spanish motorsports

Carlos Sainz is the subject of a series called Sainz: Live to Compete that you can watch on Red Bull TV. Learn more about the Spanish motorsports legend’s career right here.
Written by Dave Rawlings
5 min readPublished on
As a two-time World Rally Championship winner and three-time Dakar Rally champion, Carlos Sainz is one of Spain’s foremost sports heroes.
Sainz is most famous for his exploits in the World Rally Championship, but it seems he was always destined to be a sports star. As a youngster he had trials at Real Madrid and was the national squash champion at the age of 16 before making a name for himself in motorsports.
During his 18-year WRC career he was crowned champion in 1990 and 1992, claiming 26 rally wins, 97 podiums and 757 stage wins. Now he's the subject of Sainz: Live to Compete, a six-part TV series that's now available to watch on Red Bull TV.
Carlos Sainz during stage 5 of Rally Dakar 2022 from Riyadh to Buraydah, Saudi Arabia.
Carlos Sainz making history in the Audi RS Q e-tron
Golfer Seve Ballesteros was coming to the end of his career when Sainz became champion, and in the series Sainz wonders if people would be at the airport to cheer him on when he returned home. He needn’t have worried because there were thousands cheering his name as well as chanting a new nickname that's stuck with him since: El Matador.
The show also sees Sainz’s co-driver Luis Moya point out that the sports world largely overlooked Spain at the time: “We hadn’t won the World Cup of soccer, basketball, Rafa Nadal, Marc Márquez or Pau Gasol weren’t playing yet, no one.”
Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso is of the same opinion, saying: “I think that was the moment when it clicked in our minds. Although we are Spanish, coming from Spain, we could dominate the motor world.”
Carlos Sainz of Spain and Scuderia Toro Rosso speaks with his father Carlos Sainz as they arrive in the paddock for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015.
Father and son at the British Grand Prix
One day I asked him: 'Do you really want to take the step to run beyond the indoor tracks?' 'Yes, Dad, I’d love to' was his reply

Sports dynasties

Sons following in the footsteps of their fathers is nothing new in motorsports.
1996 Formula One Drivers’ Champion Damon Hill followed his father Graham, who won two Formula One World Championships and is also the only driver to win the Triple Crown which includes the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours Of Le Mans and F1 title.
There’s also the Rosbergs with Keke and Nico, who each won a Formula One title. The Schumachers, with father Michael winning seven world titles and his son Mick, now plying his trade for Haas in F1.
Let’s not forget Max Verstappen, the current Formula One World Champion, who followed his dad, Jos, into the sport and has him in the garage for support and guidance.
And of course, Carlos Sainz has been followed into the world of motorsport by his son, Carlos Sainz Jr.
Carlos Sainz Sr says he didn’t push his son into becoming a driver, but Jr’s mother, Reyes Vázquez de Castro, says she could see his ability from a young age. “At first glance you see his talent,” she explains in the show. “There is no doubt that genetics has helped, because he just inherited it. He had something other children didn’t have; it just came naturally to him.”
Carlos took his son karting, but never pressured him. “One day I asked him: 'Do you really want to take the step to run beyond the indoor tracks?' 'Yes, Dad, I’d love to' was his reply,” says Carlos Sr in the show.
Carlos Jr says there was some added pressure with being his father’s son. But it pushed him, and the Formula One race winner now drives for one of the most famous teams in F1 – Ferrari.
Mattias Ekstrom of Team Audi Sport and Carlos Sainz are seen during Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally 2022 between Al Dawadimi and Wadi Ad Dawasir, Saudi Arabia, on January 10, 2022.
That winning feeling… Sainz celebrates the first stage win in a hybrid

No age restrictions

Carlos Sainz turned 60 in April, 2022. But while most sports stars are reminiscing about their glory days by that age, Sainz is still competing – and winning – proving that you can stay at the top.
After 18 years in WRC, Sainz had his head turned towards Dakar. “I race in the Dakar because of Colin [McRae],” says Sainz in the show. McRae was Sainz’s friend and rival when the pair raced for Subaru in 2004-2005. “He told me I had to do the Dakar and that I would like it. It’s for you and I’m sure you’d do well. You have to try. It was him pushing me.”
Sainz: Live to Compete lays out Sainz’s Dakar career, explaining how he can develop any car into a winner. He won in 2010 with a Volkswagen Touareg, again in 2018 with a Peugeot 3008 and in 2020 with a Mini John Cooper Works Buggy.
Carlos Sainz during stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2022 from Al Artawiyah to Al Qaisumah, Saudi Arabia.
Sainz driving through the desert
The three-time winner’s biggest achievement was in the 2022 Dakar, when he signed up with Audi. His driving skill and ability to develop cars were exactly what Audi wanted in their driver because the team was going to compete in the world’s toughest rally with its RS Q e-tron car. And once again Sainz made Spain proud by becoming the first driver to win a stage in the Dakar rally in a hybrid vehicle.
Sainz will be the oldest driver competing at the 2023 edition of the Dakar Rally, but he’ll also be one of the favourites to lift the trophy. Get up to speed with the motorsports legend by watching Sainz: Live to Compete.
Be sure to download the free Red Bull TV app and catch the Motorsports action on all your devices! Get the app here

Part of this story

Carlos Sainz

Known as 'El Matador', veteran driver Carlos Sainz is a two-time WRC World Champion and one of Spain's greatest ever off-road racers.

View Profile