Sanz firms up Dakar 2022 car debut plans

The four-wheel convert will be run by top team X-raid in Saudi Arabia, and will do a warm-up rally

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Laia Sanz will drive a Mini All4 Racing run by X-raid for her first Dakar Rally in the car category.

An experienced bike competitor on the classic rally raid, with 11 consecutive finishes, Sanz has made the switch to four-wheel competition this year and last month announced that she would move away from bikes for the 2022 edition of the Dakar.

Sanz, who has spent the bulk of the 2021 season racing in Extreme E in a car shared with three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz in the Acciona Sainz team, will be joined in Saudi Arabia by fellow ex-Dakar rider and experienced navigator Maurizio Gerini.

“During my sports career, I have always liked to get out of my comfort zone and now I am embarking on a new adventure. It will be by car, with an X-raid MINI 4×4 and I am very excited,” said Sanz.

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The Dakar Rally will take place between January 2-14, with crews arriving in Saudi Arabia, where the event will be held for the third consecutive year, just before New Year.

“After 11 editions, I think I have achieved things that I would not have imagined before participating in my first Dakar. They have been great results, very good experiences, but also tough, and I think that for many things it was time to make a change,” said Sanz.

“I think this vehicle gives me guarantees of not having problems, of making a good debut and, above all, of trying to finish the Dakar, learn as much as possible and try to do the best possible.”

In addition to her XE duties, Sanz got her first experience of four-wheel action in Dakar-like conditions on the Dubai International Baja, driving a Can-Am SSV.

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The 20-time women’s motorcycle world champion (14 in trial and six in the enduro category) then drove for X-raid in the same Mini All4 Racing car she will contest the Dakar in on the Andalucía Rally, finishing eighth.

Sanz and Gerini will compete together for the first time in the traditional Dakar warm-up event the Baja Ha’il from December 6-11, before heading back to Saudi Arabia after Christmas.

“In order to prepare for the car debut in the Dakar, we are going to compete in Hail, where we hope to begin to understand each other and add kilometers that will be very important to get to the starting line on January 1st with some running-in,” she added.

“This test is held in an area and terrain similar to those that we will find in the Dakar and that is why we will be there.”

Words:Stephen Brunsdon