Carlos Sainz Snr reveals terrifying Dakar Rally flip left him with broken back

Toby Miles
Carlos Sainz Sr arrives at the track. Sakhir, March 2022.

Carlos Sainz Sr wearing sunglasses as he arrives at the track. Sakhir, March 2022.

If it wasn’t for terminal damage to his machine Carlos Sainz Snr, 60, would have righted his car and continued the Dakar Rally despite a terrifying flip that caused spinal fractures. 

The father of Ferrari driver Carlos Jnr has issued an update on his condition, having been forced to abandon the extreme Saudi Arabia event on Stage 9.

Sainz’s 2023 Dakar was action-packed. The rally icon was victorious on Stage 1, suffered a costly mechanical failure on Stage 3, ripped a tyre off his Audi in a Stage 6 incident and had victory retroactively whisked away after being caught speeding on Stage 8.

But the drama ramped up again on Stage 9, when the double Dakar winner and co-driver Lucas Cruz were chasing lost time. Soaring into the air after speeding over a sharp lip, they front-end nosedived into the dune, shunting hard before flipping onto the roof.

The Spanish pairing scrambled onto the sand and immediately rolled their stricken Audi back onto four wheels. Sainz was forced into an air ambulance bound for Riyadh complaining of chest pains – only to order the helicopter to turn back so he could rejoin Cruz at the crash site!

The car was irretrievable though, and retired soon after. Now, Sainz has revealed his injuries.

“On my return to Madrid from the Dakar Rally, the back pain I suffered after the incident of this year’s event persisted longer than usual,” Sainz Snr wrote on social media.

“Following medical advice, I underwent further checks to assess in detail the extent of the injury.

“Unfortunately, the results haven’t brought good news because I fractured the T5 and T6 vertebrae. The good thing is that both vertebrae are stable and from this day on my priority will be to recover as soon as possible.

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“Thank you all for the love and support I have received over the last days. I will keep you updated.”

The T5 and T6 vertebrae are located towards the upper part of the spine. The former rally World Champion will need a lengthy spell on the sidelines to recover.

Sainz received support from his son, who responded on Twitter: “Cheer up dad, you’ll be fighting in no time.”

Motorsport fans across the world were stunned by the veteran driver’s hardcore attitude, with Twitter user @mtura712 writing: “They don’t call the machine El Matador for nothing. This ain’t man but a machine. Vamos!”

Sainz was watched by his Formula 1 superstar son on the ground in Saudi Arabia this month, with Carlos Jnr flying in to support his father.

The younger Sainz caused controversy when video emerged of him approaching the Team Audi Sport machine after the Spanish pairing had stopped to repair their left-rear brake.

Ferrari’s No.55 watched as his father and Cruz re-enter their vehicle before closing their left-side door, giving a thumbs-up before watching them speed away.

Team helpers are banned from being within a kilometre of their drivers during the stage and cannot receive assistance. An FIA investigation was launched but the Sainzs were cleared, as Carlos Jnr was deemed to be a spectator as opposed to a team member.