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Princess of Asturias Award for Sports 2020
Carlos Sainz Cenamor (Madrid, April 12, 1962) started in the world of rallies in 1980, after being crowned Spanish Squash Champion in 1979. He won his first race, the Seat Panda Rally Cup, in 1981, followed by the Renault Beginners Cup in 1982 (in circuits). After abandoning his law studies, he decided to take up motorsports professionally.
Several times world champion, Carlos Sainz is considered one of the top rally drivers on the international scene. He also became the first Spaniard to win the Dakar Rally in the cars class in 2010, a feat he repeated in 2018 and 2020. With a career spanning more than three decades among the motorsport elite, Sainz marked an era by becoming the first non-Nordic driver to win the Rally Finland. In 1983 and 1984, he combined rally and top-speed racing, and in 1985 finished runner-up in the Spanish Championship with Renault, also coming second the following year. In 1987, he signed for Ford, won the Spanish Rally Championship and participated in three World Rally races, as well as being crowned Spanish champion once again the following year. In 1989, he participated in his first full season in the World Cup and became world champion for the first time in 1990 as a member of the Toyota team, winning four of the ten rallies in which he participated and coming second in four others. After finishing runner-up in the 1991 World Championship, he was once again crowned world champion in 1992, with four victories in the same number of rallies. He finished runner-up again in the 1994, 1995 and 1998 World Rally Championships and third in 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he garnered his 26th victory, coming first in the Rally Argentina, which made him the rally driver to have won the most rallies in the history of the world championship, beating the record set by British driver Colin McRae. In all, Carlos Sainz has stepped up onto the podium 97 times in individual events. He announced his retirement in 2004, but months later returned to competition in the 2005 World Championship, retiring definitively in the Rally of Turkey, in which he finished fourth. In 2006, he competed in the Cross-Country World Cup and, the following year, he rounded off his record with a third world championship title, that of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Having participated several times in the Dakar Rally, in 2010 he came first in the cars class and, in 2018, at the age of 55, he managed to prevail for the second time in the toughest motorsport competition in the world, in an edition also marked by one of the most demanding routes in the history of the Dakar Rally and by the quality of his rivals, including nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb and thirteen-time Dakar winner (six in cars and seven in motorcycles) Stéphane Peterhansel. He repeated the feat in 2020, the first time the Dakar was held in Asia, in Saudi Arabia. Carlos Sainz is also involved in activities to support up-and-coming drivers through various initiatives, such as the creation in 2000 of the Carlos Sainz Junior Team, which for two years allowed young people chosen for their talent for the sport to compete without any cost.
In November 2004 he received a tribute in Madrid, attended by more than 100,000 people on a circuit through the streets of the capital. That year he also received the gold and diamond insignia of the Royal Spanish Automobile Federation (RFEDA). Among other honours, he has also received the Olympic Order of the Spanish Olympic Committee (1997), the Grand Cross of Spain’s Royal Order of Sporting Merit (2001), the French Youth and Sports Medal (2008) and the Premios Influentials award for his professional career (Spain, 2020). In 2012, he was inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame at the Mobilia Museum (Finland) and, in 2019, was inducted into the Rally Drivers Hall of Fame created by the Federation Internationale de l’Automovile (FIA).
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