Madrid, May 5 (efe-epa).- Double world champion, Spaniard Carlos Sainz has been chosen the best rally driver in the history of the World Rally (WRC) after beating Frenchman Sébastien Loeb, nine times champion.
“I cannot be more happy and more proud about this recognition,” the 58-year-old driver said.
“Thank you very much for bringing me first to the final and, of course, secondly for allowing me to win this recognition against Sébastien Loeb.
“I don’t need to tell you how much I rate Sébastien Loeb and how much he deserves to be the greatest. But I have to say not only him, all the world champions merit this recognition. But somebody has to win and, in this case, it has been myself.”
More than 80,000 votes were cast in the final by fans and a group of expert journalists on the WRC website.
Sainz obtained 57.28 percent of the final votes and in order to claim the victory the Spaniard had to beat Finns Hannu Mikkola (champion in 1983) in the first round and Tommi Makkinen (winner in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999) in the quarter-finals.
Sainz came head to head with Frenchman Sébastien Ogier (six times champion between 2013 and 2018) in the semifinals.
The driver from Madrid who has been nicknamed El Matador was crowned world champion in 1990 and 1992 (both with Toyota).
According to the WRC he has been one of the championship’s “most consistent performers and also finished second or third in the championship on a remarkable nine occasions.”
“He was already a WRC legend thanks to his incredible driving skills in the most brutally tough and unforgiving terrain on the planet. This accolade confirms the esteem in which he is held by both fans and pundits. He is known as King Carlos – now he is officially the King of the WRC!” WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said.
Sixth seed Sainz ran a total of 196 WRC events, in which he achieved 26 wins and climbed 97 podiums, almost half of the rallies in which he competed.
After the WRC, he began competing in the Dakar which he won in 2010 (Volkswagen Touareg), 2018 (Peugeot 3008) and 2020 (Mini) and was third in 2011 (Volkswagen).
His rival in the final was Loeb, the most successful rally driver with nine consecutive victories between 2004 and 2012.
The Frenchman was favourite due to the number of titles he has secured and for having accumulated 79 victories across 179 rallies.
The top seed successively ousted Brit Richard Burns (champion in 2001), German Walter Röhrl (1980 and 1982) and Finn Juha Kankkunen (1986, 1987, 1991 and 1993).
On 3 April WRC promoters announced the creation of a poll on their website to choose the best driver of all time.
Fans’ votes counted for 40 percent of the result in each match between pilots which was combined with the decisions of six expert journalists. The 20 drivers were selected based on their titles, rally wins and podiums.
The panel of expert journalists was composed of Julian Porter (WRC commentator and broadcaster), Marco Giordo (Autosprint magazine, Italy), Reiner Kuhn (Motorsport aktuell, Germany), David Evans (DirtFish, USA), Loic Rocci (AUTOhebdo, France) and José Manuel González (WRC + All Live commentator, Spain).
“I gave everything to rallying. Rallying has been my life, rallying has been my dream and today rallying and the whole family of rallying is giving me a big smile and this big recognition,” Sainz told fans. EFE/EPA