‘Familiar terrain for Dakar is an advantage’
Defending champ Nasser Al Attiyah is optimistic ahead of January’s Dakar Rally as it will be held in Saudi Arabia.
Qatar’s rallying ace Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah is bracing up for new adventures in 2020. And he can find motivation from his phenomenal show in 2019 as he faces up to another round of hard battles against challenging terrains.
Speaking to Inside Qatar in Doha, he said, “At the start of the year, we have the Dakar Rally. We are certainly looking to defend our title. Last year we won the rally by a good margin. It will be different this year as the event is being held in Saudi Arabia, but it shouldn’t stop us from winning.”
The Dakar Rally has been shifted from South America due to economic uncertainty in the region. It will be moving out for the first time since 2009. The new terrain seemed to excite Nasser.
“It’s being held in the Middle East, a place where we have plenty of experience. That gives us a good chance of winning the rally again, he said.
Nasser also spoke about having Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team for the January event.
“It’s great to have him as part of the team. It’s the first time for him at the Dakar, so it will be difficult, but he’s an experienced driver and he has been taking part in different rallies to prepare,” said Nasser.
Nasser dominated the Middle East Rally Championships this year, leaving no chance to his opponents in every race he took part in. What’s more, he finished the season with a record 15 championship titles, going past UAE’s Mohammed bin Sulayem who had won 14.
Speaking on his feat, he said, “Winning 15 titles and setting that record feels fantastic. It’s something no one has done before. I am proud to have done it for my country. The achievement has only motivated me to keep going”.
While victories in rallies certainly seem to be his driving force, he mentioned another key factor which has helped him in his endeavours.
“The support of HH The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has been tremendous. The government has supported me in all my endeavours and when you have that kind of support, it makes you want to achieve more,” said Nasser.
The Qatari ace also spoke about his goals in the new season.
Nasser missed out on the World Cross Country title in Morocco earlier this month following a mishap on the penultimate day. But 2020 is a new season and he hopes to add that title too to his name.
“The Silk Route Rally will be part of the World Cross Country Rally Championship next season, so that’s another challenge we’ll have on our hands. We came close this year, but missed out. We have another chance next year,” said Nasser.
The Dakar Rally, World Cross Country Rally Championship and the Middle East Rally Championship will be Nasser’s various stops in the coming year. He looks set to once again ascend the podiums and make Qatar proud in 2020 as well.