Carlos Sainz Out of Rally Australia

Carlos Sainz Out of Rally AustraliaFrom Citroen Press [ 10/11/2004 ].
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Carlos Sainz, the most successful rally driver all time, has been forced out of this weekend's (12-14 November 2004) Telstra Rally Australia following an accident during practice on Tuesday (9 November). Sainz is bitterly disappointed by his enforced withdrawal from what would have been the final event of his 24 year career. Sainz and co-driver Mark Marti were practicing for the rally on stage 3, Stirling Long, when their recce car - not a Citroën - left the road. "In a long and fast left corner I picked the right line slid the car into a tightening bend," explained Sainz. "A sudden change of grip launched our car towards the outside of the bend where we hit a large tree at around 80 to 90 kmh."

"The doctors have strongly advised me not to drive," said Sainz, who has been instrumental in taking Citroën to their World Championship titles in 2003 and 2004, as well as guiding team mate Sebastien Loeb to his world title this year. "It has been explained to me that another impact of the same kind could lead to very serious consequences and although I would love nothing more to say good bye to my Australian fans in this wonderful event, I cannot take that risk."

Although Sainz went on to complete the practice in a spare car, event doctors suggested that the Citroën crew should be checked at the nearest hospital, which was in Harvey. From there they were flown to Perth for further investigation. At this point Sainz complained of neck pain and a further check up on Wednesday lead to the advice they he should withdraw from the event. This was confirmed by team manager, Guy Frequelin.

With Sainz out of Rally Australia, the final event of his career has now turned out to be his home event two weeks ago when he was cheered to third place by hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Spaniards. When the rally starts today (Thursday) there will, therefore, be just one Citroën Xsara WRC, driven by newly crowned World Champion, Sebastien Loeb, in the event.

Sainz, who proved with a win on the notoriously difficult Rally of Argentina this year that was still very much a man to beat, came second in Rally Australia in 1990, third in 1992, third again in 1996, second in 1998, second in 1999, eighth in 2001, fourth in 2002 and fourth last year. Until the recce accident, a win in his final event by one of the most skilled and experienced drivers the sport has ever seen was very much on the cards.