Laia Sanz, the top female racer at the Dakar Rally, is switching to car racing for the 2022 event. Rumour has it, she’s headed to X-raid Mini.
The announcement came earlier this week, although it’s been a long time coming. Sanz has been co-driving with Carlos Sainz Sr. in the Extreme E electric car series, and also raced Baja Dubai and the Andalusia Rally in cars earlier this year.
The move comes as Sanz is arguably very close to the top of her game, still. She finished with a top-20 place in 2021, riding her GasGas (really just a KTM with a red paint job) to 17th overall. She was 11th in 2019, and ninth overall in 2015. She has finished every Dakar since she started, despite dealing with mononucleosis in 2018 and Lyme Disease in the days before the 2021 Dakar. No other female rider has ever finished in the top 10 at Dakar, or had such a strong overall career.
Sanz came to Dakar as a legendary competitor in the FIM’s European trials and enduro championships as well, amassing great shelves full of trophies in both disciplines. She just returned to Trials GP after years away and won the championship in a come-from-behind surge at the last round. In a few days, she’s going to try to re-conquer the Women’s Enduro World Championship series as well.
With all that in mind—Laia Sanz might truly be the Greatest Of All Time female motorcycle racer. She has dominated every female category she’s raced, and while she has never taken a podium at Dakar, she has time and time again finished the race where other big-shot factory riders didn’t. Although it’s understandable that she wants to move on in her racing career, it’s genuinely the end of an era. Hopefully she still sticks around for other moto events, even if she stops rally raid racing on two wheels.
Below, you can see what Sanz wrote on her Instagram page, after announcing her retirement from moto racing at Dakar:
The time has come to make a change for the next Dakar rally. It was never going to be an easy decision and I will miss taking part in the event with a bike, but I think it’s the right moment. I feel very proud of the results we achieved, much more than I could have imagined when I entered my first Dakar and completing it was a dream in itself. If I had been told I would finish it 9th once and many times inside the top 15, I would have thought it was a joke. I finish this part of my career with the feeling of having always given it my best. The past two years, I even raced without the proper preparation the Dakar rally needs. It was a very beautiful stage of my career where I enjoyed having many great team mates and being part of a great team for the past 6 years. Now a new stage is opening and it is one I face with great excitement. I hope I can give you more news soon. Thank you to @gasgas.official, the whole group and all the sponsors, especially @kh7_sport, who have been with me since the first year (2011)