2022 Dakar Rally Champion Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero
What happens when a Spanish dentist takes on the famous Dakar Rally
In January 2021, Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero stood on the Dakar Rally podium becoming the first woman to win a stage since Jutta Kleinschmidt in 2005. The 30-year-old orthodontist by profession, started racing in 2011 and quickly has become a woman to watch in the racing world, making history in 2017 as the first female Spaniard to finish the Dakar Rally, and in November 2021 becoming the first female to to win in the T3 category of the FIA Cross Country World Cup with rally partner Francois Cazalet.
How does an orthodontist become one of the most famous and watched female rally drivers? Hard-work, dedication, and a relentless passion for driving.
The Dakar Rally has been described as the world’s hardest race, and for good reason. The Dakar is a test of endurance over speed, taking drivers to the world’s most extreme desert environments and testing how successful a racer can perform without modern conveniences. The Dakar strictly forbids GPS, only allowing drivers to use a compass, map, and intuition to guide them through extreme environments and pushing competitors to their edge.
Most professionals, in dentistry or otherwise, would almost certainly shy away from extreme, rugged competition that propels the individual to endure harsh weather and unforgiving environmental circumstances for days on end, but not Gutiérrez. A rare breed of competitor, her training in the medical field played a part in creating the award-winning competitor seen today.
Early racing career
Gutiérrez first entered the Dakar Rally in 2017, when she became the first Spanish woman to finish the race in the car category. Immediately after, she prepared for future rallies by joining F1 superstar Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team in the Extreme E championship. Her dedication to the sport is attractive to powerful sponsors who have backed the driver including: Red Bull Off-Road Team, Santander Consumer Finance, BF Goodrich, Sparco, and Stillo.
After Gutiérrez and co-driver Cazalet won the T3 category of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Cazalet described Cristina saying, “Cristina showed me many times that at points when normal people would give up, he is on top and pushing. I have a lot of respect for this.”
Even more respectable is Cristina’s day job where she practices at a private dentistry in Barcelona. “For me, it’s very natural, and my patients know all about my other career,” explains Gutiérrez in an interview with racing sponsor Red Bull. “I do my best to organize my week, so I have time for my patients and also for competitions.”
She was in dental school until 2014, earning her degree at the same time that she was building up a career as one of the world’s best female off-roaders. An impressive balance of talents she so effortlessly executes, both on and off the track. As she was re-writing history in rally racing, she doubled down in Barcelona continuing her work in dentistry showing spectators exactly why she is a powerful woman to watch.
Related: The Dakar Rally 2022: Everything You Should Know