If you ask who the greatest World Rally Championship (WRC) driver of all time is, you’re bound to get numerous answers from fans around the world.
Some might say it’s the late Colin McRae. Others will say it is 9-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg, or even Tommi Makinen. But, according to a poll run by WRC organizers, it is 1990 and 1992 WRC champion Carlos Sainz who is the GOAT of WRC.
Over 300,000 votes were cast from around the world during the knock-out style poll held by WRC organizers and Pirelli. Sainz managed to beat 1983 WRC champion Hannu Mikkola, ’96-99 champion and current Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Makinen and 2013-18 champion Sebastien Ogier. He then went up against Loeb in the final head-to-head poll. Sainz managed to claim 57.28 percent of the votes in a close battle in order to be crowned the greatest of all time.
“I cannot be more happy and more proud about this recognition. Thank you very much for bringing me first to the final and, of course, secondly for allowing to me to win this recognition against Sébastien Loeb. I don’t need to tell you how much I rate Sébastien Loeb and how much he deserves to be the greatest. But I have to say not only him, all the world champions merit this recognition. But somebody has to win and, in this case, it has been myself,” said Sainz.
When it comes to statistics, there is no doubt that Loeb has the upper hand against Sainz with 79 WRC wins together with nine world titles. In fact, he might even be the most successful WRC driver to date. But even with that record, it seems Sainz remains the fan-favorite even with "just" 26 victories and two world titles under his belt. Loeb may have the numbers, but Sainz has won the hearts of more, judging by this poll.
Sainz is popularly known for driving the Toyota Celica GT-Four, Toyota Corolla hatchback WRC, and the 555 Subaru Impreza during his stint in WRC. He could have won a third WRC title in 1998, had the engine in his Corolla not blown up less than 100 meters away from the finish. But even with that heartbreak, Sainz still remains active in motorsports.
Currently 58 years old, Sainz even managed to win the 2020 Dakar Rally with Red Bull and Mini. We certainly don't see this living legend slowing down any time soon.