Let me reintroduce Sven. His surname is Quandt. Yes, that Quandt family, the one that owns a significant proportion of BMW. Later, he’ll roll down a sand dune, just for the hell of it. You might imagine that a man whose family is allegedly worth €20 billion has more important things to do than roll down sand dunes and run a rally team. Seemingly no. Sven is tall with a headmasterly air, knowledgeable and interesting on a wide range of subjects, and for the last 20 years, this is what he’s done: run rally teams. Before that, he competed himself. X-Raid’s €12 million annual turnover must be small change, but this is something he’s built up himself, something he can be personally proud of.
I ask him what the secret is to winning the Dakar. “Reliability is number one, then suspension and power and drivetrain, and that’s equally shared. You can’t win with one and not the other. And then you need always 20 per cent luck.” But you make your own luck, surely, I counter. “No, you need luck on top.” And the drivers? What makes a good one? “Experience, above all. You know, no one under 30 has ever won the Dakar? It’s not an old man’s game, but you have to be tough and you have to learn, and learning takes time.
You must also like the desert and you must not be afraid, and that is a big challenge - you learn a lot about yourself when you do the Dakar. And you,” he says, “did you enjoy it?” I tell him I did, but was surprised how physically brutal it was. “I know, that’s because God doesn’t make humans as tough as we make cars.” Too right, Sven, too right.