2010 and 2011 Dakar Rally champions Carlos Sainz Jr and Nasser Al-Attiyah have paired up to drive for the new Qatar Red Bull Rally Team on the 2013 running of the off-road marathon.
Sainz and Al-Attiyah will drive a pair of new buggies, custom-built by Californian firm Jefferies Racing.
Two-time World Rally Champion Sainz, 50, and former Production World Rally Champion Al-Attiyah, 41, claimed their Dakar victories while part of the Volkswagen factory squad. The German marque’s WRC programme caused them to depart the event after Al-Attiyah’s 2011 win. Sainz missed the 2012 running while Al-Attiyah attempted in vain to defend his title behind the wheel of one of Robby Gordon’s Hummers.
The team’s co-drivers are also Dakar winners in the shape of Timo Gottschalk and Lucas Cruz, but in an intriguing move the navigators have swapped drivers. After guiding fellow Spaniard Sainz to his 2010 win, Cruz will read the notes for Al-Attiyah, while Germany’s Gottschalk will be sat alongside Sainz after tasting victory with Al-Attiyah in 2011.
“There’s nothing quite like preparing a completely new car for a Dakar Rally and my first impressions of this buggy is that it’s a very impressive machine,” said Sainz. “The whole team has great hopes that we can achieve a good performance at the 2013 Dakar Rally.
“It’s still very early days to be saying how far up the leaderboard we can finish in this car but we are working every day to make sure we get the set-up just right. There’s still so much hard work to do before we even reach the beginning of the first stage of the Dakar in Lima, Peru.
“The thing that has convinced me about the potential of this buggy is how it behaves over the rough ground we have been testing it on. We still need to do more though because the Dakar is not raced over rough ground with a few bumps, it’s far more challenging than that. For the Dakar you need a car that is working fine on the dunes as well as on the road. The car needs to be agile and responsive. Actually, for a car to be successful at the Dakar it needs to have a little bit of everything.”
Al-Attiyah, who came up with the idea for the project, said: “I’m really happy to now be at the stage to officially launch our new Qatar Red Bull Rally Team. It’s a very exciting time for all of us as we now put our complete focus into getting our new buggy car ready for the 2013 Dakar Rally.
“I have been involved in the project from the very beginning and I have used my own experiences at the Dakar Rally to come up with something new and innovative for the upcoming race in South America. We encouraged the team to bring fresh ideas to the table when we first started to discuss what type of car we were going to build. I truly believe we have come at it from a totally new angle and this makes me extremely proud of the final product we now have in front of us.
“I’m under no illusion that coming to the Dakar with a completely new car is perhaps the toughest challenge I have ever faced at this race. The entire Qatar Red Bull Rally Team are going to have to carry on the hard work that has got us to this stage in these few weeks before the race and continue that effort during the actual Dakar. My ambition right now is just to reach the finish in this new car, if we make it that far then everyone involved can be proud of the job they have done.”