Carlos Sainz has welcomed Volkswagen's forthcoming entry into the World Rally Championship, describing it as 'great news' all-round and revealing that he hopes his wealth of experience over the years will help to ensure that the German marque is as competitive and prepared as it can be when it makes its bow in 2013.
VW will return to the series in an official capacity for the first time in more than two decades when the new Polo R WRC joins the fray for the 2013 curtain-raiser [see separate story – click here
], and at the car's Olbia launch on the eve of last weekend's Rally Italia Sardinia, it was confirmed that two-time World Rally Champion Sainz will be an integral part of the project as a special advisor.
Having formed close ties with VW since joining the manufacturer five years ago to take on the mighty Dakar Rally – a gruelling marathon that he conquered in 2010 – the Spaniard will play a key role in the development of the aggressive new Polo, and even if he insists that the disciplines of WRC and rally-raid are so different and 'day-and-night' as to be incomparable, Sainz acknowledges that the sport in general is 'a natural fit' for the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer.
“It's great that Volkswagen has decided to come into the WRC,” enthused the 49-year-old, who is set to test the car – although he is eager to stress that he will not be its designated test-driver. “I'm sure VW will try to be very competitive right from the beginning – but winning is a different story.
“Time is already counting down, and although 2013 looks far away right now, it's going to come around very quickly. We need to go step-by-step and work very hard if we want to be competitive from the start. The team has to work to the maximum – and I'm sure they will.
“I have a lot of experience in the WRC, and I'm ready to help the team as much as possible in all areas. I've been in rallying all my life, in so many different teams and I know many people. I've won with most of them and with most of the cars I've driven. I think I know a little bit and have a good picture of what is required. I'm not the team manager, but I will be close to Kris [Nissen – Volkswagen Motorsport Director] and I hope we can do a good job.
“It's going to be good fun to test the car to help the team – but I'm not going to be the test-driver. From time-to-time I can drive the car to give my opinion and my impressions, but it will be very important from the beginning to have the right drivers in the car. You can very easily lose direction if the indications from the driver are not good.
“We need to have a clear project, a clear structure, good engineers [and] good drivers – and we have to be very realistic. We will be facing two very strong manufacturers with a lot of experience in rallying and we are a newcomer, so it will take some time, for sure – but we have to look to be as competitive as possible.”
In that quest, Sainz's indisputable knowledge and expertise will assuredly be a significant boon, and having competed in the WRC during its glory days and witnessed its sad but steady decline since the dawn of the new Millennium, 'El Matador' is convinced that VW's impending arrival on the scene – allied to MINI's works debut last weekend – is another positive indication that the championship is slowly regaining strength and returning to form under its new regulations.
“It's still a bit too early to say, but we are on the way,” he acknowledged. “This is one of the steps required, and I really feel happy for the whole rallying family. VW is one of the major players, and this is a great boost for the WRC – what the championship really needs is for people to come in and compete.
“VW has been growing for a long time and has become one of the strongest companies in the world. The fact that one of the strongest companies in the world has decided to enter the World Rally Championship is great news. I'm sure we are looking towards an upward period in the WRC.”