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RACE AUTOS: TO PROVE THE SAINZ METHOD

Unbeaten in the sport since the 2010 Dakar, Carlos Sainz comes into the 2011 edition with wisdom as well as a technical dexterity that have been established for a long time now. But the title defence will require the Spaniard to control a number of contenders, both in and out of his own team.

The conjunction of parameters needed to for winning the Dakar prohibit overly confident prognostications. Even Carlos Sainz had to pay his dues. The two-time world rally champion had to first complete his learning phase of driving in the dunes and he made his share of first-timer mistakes before adapting his pace to an endurance event, then he had to team up with a suitable co-driver, Lucas Cruz, before finding the path to success. In all it took 'El matador' four editions and 17 stage wins before he won his maiden Dakar. And it was at the conclusion of an exercise in keeping a cool head because he had to contend with his team mate, the rambunctious Nasser Al-Attiyah, who finished a mere 2'38" adrift in the overall classification. In the Volkswagen camp, it seems that the Qatari is ready to give it his all to march on to the final step of the podium. Also runner-up on the Silk Way Rally, but at the wheel of the prior generation Race Touareg, Al-Attiyah will this time be at the controls of the same car as Sainz. In this VW duel, team mates Mark Miller and Giniel De Villiers have no intentions of playing the role of spectators. The 2009 winner demonstrated in Russia that he had rediscovered his form, before crashing out of the rally.

While the German entries are favourites for the win, Robby Gordon, who finished on the podium in 2009 and who won't be satisfied until he wins, can't be overlooked. His latest generation Hummer is now four-wheel drive. The second car in his team will be driven by former Formula One driver, Eliseo Salazar from Chile. Further down the list of entries are a number of candidates, who don't necessarily have enough to battle for the top three, but who have their sights set on a top ten result. One such entry is Christian Lavielle with his Dessoude-Prototype, as are Matthias Kahle and Benat Errandonea in the Philippe Gache prepared buggies. And finally, the opening stages will also offer a chance to Joan "Nani" Roma, who was brought in at the last minute to be the lead driver in Team Overdrive.

-source: dakar

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Series DAKAR