EVER since he romped home in a SAM Mercedes 35CC in 2011 when the Qatar Cross-Country Rally was a candidate for the FIA World Cup, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah has dominated it.
The event has been a regular feature on the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies’ calendar since 2012, and with his latest victory last week, Nasser has made it five wins in six editions.
Barring the 2013 mishap when a damage to his experimental buggy’s oil filter forced him to retire, Nasser has never disappointed at home and the plot was no different this time, with the Qatari registering an emphatic win in a Toyota Hilux for Overdrive Racing Team.
It was a comeback typical of Nasser, whose title defence had suffered following his unexpected withdrawal from the final stage in the previous round in Abu Dhabi.
“This is a good result for my championship and it’s always nice to win at home,” said Nasser, who finished 7min, 02sec ahead of Mini All4Racing’s Polish driver Jakub Przygonski.
There was more joy for the Toyota camp as South Africa’s Leeroy Poulter, who was making his Middle East debut, brought up the final spot on the podium while Nasser’s compatriot Mohamed Issa Abu Issa finished fifth for Mini All4 Racing.
Right from the start of the newly-introduced 4.85km super special stage, Nasser and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel dominated the five-day event, the fourth round of FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
But unlike in Abu Dhabi, where he squandered a whopping 41min, 26sec lead in the final day, Nasser played it safe in the final stage where only a second place was sufficient for him to clinch the title.
“Yes, we tried to take care. We didn’t take any risks,” Nasser explained his strategy.
“We had a few problems. We tried to fix and continue and then, in the last part, in the dunes, we had a puncture. The jack wasn’t working. We put the car on a small hill and changed the tyres and it took nearly around four minutes. After that, we did good navigation and caught up with everybody. It was important to win here,” he said.
Nasser, who has won the Qatar Cross-Country Rally in three different cars — SAM Mercedes 35CC, Mini All4Racing and Toyota Hilux, was happy to have exorcised the demons of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. He is now looking forward to the next round — a new event on the calendar, Rally Kazakhstan, to be held from May 20 to 27.
“In Abu Dhabi, I made a very simple mistake that threw the championship wide open. Such things happen in motorsport. Now I’m back to winning ways. I’m looking forward to the rally in Kazakhstan. It would be definitely interesting since it’s a new event,” he concluded.