Five minutes with Nasser Al Attiyah
Written by Neil Perkins
Nasser Al Attiyah is currently one of the hottest properties in world sport. After securing a 10th FIA Middle East Rally Championship title in December 2014 and the prestigious 2014 WRC2 World Rally Championship, the Qatari won a second Dakar Rally title in January 2015.
You have just won the Dakar Rally for a second time and led from start to finish. How does it feel?
This was my second Dakar win, and it was a special victory because I received a lot of calls from fans in Qatar and the rest of the world. I got great support from the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), the Qatar Olympic Committee, and my sponsor Ooredoo.
I promised myself when I was on the podium, in third place in 2014, that I would return and go for the win. It was very hard to lead the race from the very beginning and continue in that position over such a long distance. My team and the Mini All4 Racing car were fantastic.
Our strategy enabled us to make a gap from the second day. I just needed to avoid making mistakes and having problems. This victory was with my private team, unlike the first win with Volkswagen in 2011. Then, we didn’t have an issue with a lack of spare parts. When you beat factory teams with a private team, you take more pleasure from the success.
What does the latest success mean to you?
It means everything to me. The target was to go to South America and win the biggest race in the world. After the win, I received a call from His Highness The Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and that was fantastic. His Highness The Emir said, “Well done,” and those words felt so great to me. It was a special moment.
Tell us about your new nickname, the ‘Prince of Dakar’.
People in Argentina started calling me that! Now I want to break the win record on the Dakar. That is held by my friend and rival Stéphane Peterhansel. He has won five times in a car.
What was the reception like when you returned to Hamad International Airport?
The Dakar Rally receives tremendous media coverage in the Middle East through satellite television and our local media. As the two weeks progressed, there was more and more interest in my result, and it was so pleasing to see several leading government dignitaries and the president of the QMMF come to meet me at the airport when I returned.
Why were you more successful this time?
The difference between this year and last year was my co-driver Matthieu Baumel. He has a rich background in rallying and gave me advice all last year. This helped me to win many stages.
You clinched a tenth MERC title in Dubai in December?
Yes, I have now won this rally for eight years in succession and 10 times in the last 12 years. In total, I have won 55 rounds of the local international rally championship in my career. The record of 60 wins was set by Mohammed bin Sulayem. I am chasing that record as well.
Do you think your motorsport success encourages more Arabs to take part themselves?
Definitely. Arab countries are now some of the best in motorsport. There are many drivers from this region, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the ?UAE, and Lebanon, competing in many forms of motorsport.
What are your plans for 2015?
My programme started in early February with the Qatar International Rally. I will take part in the Middle East Rally Championship and the WRC2 Championship to try and win them both again. My WRC2 programme starts in Mexico in early March, and then I will pick and choose more races as the year progresses.
Onboard this month
WATCH ORYX TELEVISION
- Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – the three rounds in Doha is the focus with Qatari champion, Nasser Al Attiyah.
- Three episodes of Kossat Tahadi that revolve around Nasser Al Attiyah.
- A special in-depth review of the 2014 WRC season with Qatari champion, Nasser Al Attiyah.