Al-Attiyah clinches Dakar Rally victory
Seven years after his first participation in the Dakar, Nasser Al Attiyah has reached the highest step on the podium. Considered for a long time to be a wild genius on four wheels, the Qatari driver won his first rally-raid in Buenos Aires, the biggest of them all.
|Winning driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and navigator Timo Gottschalk|
“He is very fast”, already said Marc Bartholomé in 2004 to describe the discrete Qatari driver he was asked to copilot for his first Dakar participation.
At the end of the rally raid, Nasser Al Attiyah finished his first go at it ranking 10th in the overall standings and got the 3rd fastest time on the Lake Rose special stage behind the wheel of a “regular” Mitsubishi that did not have what it took to fight with the best of the best.
The news of his incredible driving skills quickly went around the different crews. The following year, Al Attiyah made it into the X-Raid team. At ease in the sand dunes – even in the middle of sand storms – he came out of the historical Zouerat-Tichit stage in a very honorable 2nd place right behind Stéphane Peterhansel. But the Mauritanian desert that had contributed to building his fame and career turned into a very painful place for the driver who crashed off trail and built another reputation for himself: the one of incorrigible car-crasher.
While he was climbing in the standings, Nasser also multiplied episodes of somersaults and left an increasing amount of dead BMW X3 by the side of the trail. Finishing sixth of the 2007 Dakar, Al Attiyah – well-aware of the problem – worked twice as hard on all fronts to solve it. Next to the rally raid itself, Nasser's seasons in traditional rally racing were as Luc Alphand puts it “one of the keys to his successes”.
The man himself also insists upon the advantages of his rifle shooting career, a discipline that took him to a fourth place in the Athens Olympics: “shooting gave me decisive focus; what I did with the rifle, I now do in the car”. Between two races or trial and training runs, Nasser still spends most of his time in bivouacs with friends by the sea, where he goes fishing with them. After a new withdrawal in 2009, the “four-wheeled wild man” was contacted by Kris Nissen. Determined to enhance the dream team he already had with Giniel De Villiers and Carlos Sainz, he added another thoroughbred to the Volkswagen stables.
Behind the wheel of his Race Touareg, Al Attiyah was quick to reach the same performance levels as Sainz, but compromised his chances of victory twice, on the Rally dos Sertoes then on the Silk Way Rally. However, it was as a mature driver that he battled with “El Matador” throughout the Dakar 2010, falling short of victory by just 2'16”.
At the moment of his revenge, the driver nicknamed the prince in Argentina is just as humble as he is confident. And during the entire second week of the race, whilst the threat posed by Stephane Peterhansel became more and more distant, Al Attiyah drove like a past master. In addition to his driving skills and expertise on the dunes, he even threw a spanner into Sainz's works.
Nasser continued his faultless performance and he gained the advantage in the duel over the next two days. A double session in the sand with the shovels cost Sainz 8 minutes and the leadership of the race between Antofagasta and Copiapo. Even though the title holder gave 110% in catching his team-mate and rival, Al Attiyah did not bow under the pressure. At the finishing line in Buenos Aires, his dream came true: “It is also the biggest moment in my career. I think that now people will finally know where Qatar is located”.
Stage 13 results:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen 1h16m08s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen + 38s
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW + 1m25s
4. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen + 1m58s
5. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 2m02s
6. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 2m57s
7. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 3m58s
8. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 6m26s
9. Alfie Cox Nissan + 8m47s
10. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 8m59s
Final overall positions:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen 21h16m16s
2. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen + 49m41s
3. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen + 1h20m38s
4. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 1h43m48s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW + 4h11m21s
6. Mark Miller Volkswagen + 4h54m42s
7. Ricardo Leal dos Santos BMW + 6h50m07s
8. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 7h57m18s
9. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi + 8h23m37s
10. Matthias Kahle SMG + 15h11m56s