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Carlos Sainz admits his cross-country rally stint with Peugeot would have ended with a “bad taste” if he failed to score a Dakar win for himself.
Sainz, who won his first Dakar in 2010 with Volkswagen, joined Peugeot ahead of its return to the event for the ’15 edition.
While his team-mate Stephane Peterhansel won in 2016 and ’17, Sainz retired from his first three Dakars in the Peugeot buggy before winning this season in the final year of the Peugeot programme.
“I decided to face this chapter four years ago with Peugeot, to work with them to make a two-wheel-drive car a winner,” two-time World Rally champion Sainz told Autosport.
“This was achieved in the second year, and they’ve won in the past three years. I contributed my grain of sand.
“But it’s true that our victory was missing, and I would have been left with a bad taste in my mouth, having worked so much on this project, on this car, had I not achieved a personal victory.”
Despite his 2018 Dakar triumph ending up relatively comfortable, as he finished 44 minutes clear of nearest rival Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Toyota, Sainz described the pressure of the marathon as “brutal”.
“Of course there are moments of tension,” he said.
“It’s a race where every day there is a lot of stress, there are moments that you think you’re going to get stuck, or when it seems like you’ve got lost.
“There are a lot of scares because there are many traps along the route. The stress of these two weeks is brutal.
“Then there was the penalty, mechanical problems… It’s two weeks of a lot of stress, and you have to take it calmly, go day by day.
“That’s what I tried to do, focus on the day-to-day and not look at the longer term.
“You have to learn what the Dakar is. You have to learn to manage the stress, to have patience, which is something that was hard for me.
“I have it in my DNA to never throw in the towel and that is accentuated here in the Dakar.
“It’s a very special race and a challenge that takes all drivers to the edge.”