18 days until the 2009 Dakar Rally in Argentina and Chile

For "El Matador" Carlos Sainz the "Dakar" is a kind of a home rally

Wolfsburg (16 December 2008). When Volkswagen driver Carlos Sainz arrives at the starting point of the Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires it is as if the Spaniard is returning to his second home. Boris Becker always described the Wimbledon tennis courts as his "living room" -- and at least the same can be said for Carlos Sainz about the rally tracks in Argentina.

He won the Argentinean round of the World Rally Championship three times during his equally long and successful career. Even so, the professional lovingly referred to as "El Matador" by his fans has an excellent rapport with the South American country, in which the Dakar Rally is held between the 3 and 18 January, and its people.

"I have never experienced such a great passion among the people for motorsport as here in Argentina," explains the 46-year-old Madrilenian who drives a Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 with co-driver Michel Perin (F). "I'm looking forward to the rally there; the entire cross country rallying community will be surprised by the level of enthusiasm along the track." Carlos Sainz, who won the World Rally Championship rounds in Argentina in 1992, 2002 and 2004, hopes to have a small home advantage in the forthcoming weeks: "Yes, I already have one advantage - I speak Spanish."

New challenges are one of Carlos Sainz's strengths

Another aspect favours a successful mission for the Spaniard: If you glance at some milestones in his career then Sainz was always very strong when it was a question of adapting rapidly to unknown challenges and new terrain. In 1996 the Indonesian Rally made its debut on the WRC calendar - Carlos Sainz won convincingly. In 2003 the Turkish Rally celebrated its premiere - Sainz again won first time out. Sainz was similarly successful when he entered cross country rallying with Volkswagen. Now comes Argentina. "After everything we've heard we can expect a very hard event with possibly even higher temperatures than we experienced in Africa. We have sand, we have stones, we have water and we have desert ahead of us, but these conditions are the same for everyone and nobody can benefit from any experiences."

After claiming the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup title in 2007, Sainz has already won the Central Europe Rally and finished second in the Dakar Series round in Portugal this year with Volkswagen and his co-driver Michel Perin. The family father and Real Madrid fan would dearly love to add another significant victory to his CV: "I'm convinced that it will be a fantastic 'Dakar', and of course nothing could be better for me than taking the first win for Volkswagen in South America."

-credit: vw