And halfway to the hospital, he told the helicopter pilot to take him back so he could continue racing.
Carlos Sainz Sr. has flipped his Audi RS Q e-tron E2 on Stage 9 of the 2023 Dakar Rally in spectacular fashion. But what makes the story even more epic is that after deciding to be airlifted to the hospital, citing pain from the right side of his torso, Sainz instructed the helicopter pilot to turn around and take him back to his car, where he wanted to wait for the assistance vehicle and continue racing. Rally drivers are cut from a different cloth entirely.
Stage 9 takes place in the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula, which, as its name suggests, is barren dunes for the teams to conquer. Teams are required to traverse 222 miles across the sandy slopes, but Sainz and his Audi didn't even make it to the halfway point. Just 4 miles into the stage, Sainz lost control of the RS Q e-tron, launching over a dune and flipping head over heels, landing on the vehicle on its roof at some speed.
Sainz has not had the easiest 2023 Dakar, despite starting strong. Sainz and his Audi were the winners of the first stage, and it looked like Audi's upgrades to its electric Dakar racer were going to place the three cars at the head of the field. But incidents for Sainz in three stages have seen him drop down the overall rankings, where he now lies outside of the top 10. There have been glimmers of a return to form for Sainz, and in yesterday's Stage 8, he set the fastest time, only losing the stage win due to a five-minute time penalty, dropping him to third.
Today's crash, and the resultant time delays, will drop Sainz further out of contention for the overall title. Nasser Al-Attiyah is currently ahead of the rest of the field by a big margin (over an hour) in his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, ahead of fellow Toyota driver Henk Lategan.
Audi has no cars inside the top 10 and has been plagued with crashes and issues throughout the competition. Stage 6, for example, saw both Sainz and fellow Audi driver Stephan Peterhansel crash at the same spot, while Audi's third driver, Mattias Ekstrom, ran in 5th at the end of Stage 6 - the last time an Audi driver has been classified inside the top 10.
With five stages remaining of the 2023 Dakar Rally, Audi's chances of victory seem slim. However, if Sainz can return a few more stage victories, maybe Audi will reward him with a new Q8 e-tron for his efforts.