Laia Sanz should consider switching to the Dakar Rally’s car category “soon”, according to the event’s only ever female winner, Jutta Kleinschmidt.
Sanz, 32, has been a regular fixture of the Dakar’s bike category since 2012, and a factory KTM rider since 2016 – one year after taking her best overall finish in the South American event with ninth place.
But Kleinschmidt believes Sanz would be best-served by following in her footsteps and switching to four wheels in the near future.
The German raced in the Dakar’s bike category from 1988 to 1993 before switching to cars, winning her first stage in 1997 and then the event outright in 2001 as part of the works Mitsubishi team.
She continued to contest the Dakar until 2007, its final running in Africa.
“She is young still, but I recommend she changes [to cars] not too late,” Kleinschmidt said of Sanz. “Now she has a very good chance to change; she is definitely able to be fast in the car.
“She is about the age she should change. I changed to cars when I was 32. I hope she changes to cars soon enough.”
Kleinschmidt added that Sanz was approaching the age where riders begin to lose their edge in terms of raw pace, as both the fear and consequences of crashing increase.
“In bikes, if you want to be in front you have to risk a lot, because you have to go fast and you risk crashing,” Kleinschmidt said.
“I think there is an age, around 35, when you maybe start to think more what can happen [if you crash] and that slows you down a bit. As when you fall, you hurt yourself more.
“That’s why I think she is now at the age to change if she wants to have a career in cars. I think if she waits until she is 40, it will be too late.”