NASSER Saleh Al Attiyah has plenty to prove at home in the fourth round of FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, which began on Tuesday.
The ace Qatari has an impeccable record at the Qatar Cross-Country Rally, having won four of the five editions.
As the 33 competitors tackled a new 4.85km super special stage in the custom-built area near the Motocross Track at the Losail International Circuit on Tuesday, Nasser was well aware that he needed nothing less than a victory to maintain any chance of defending his overall title.
It has been a bumpy ride for Nasser this season starting from the Dakar Rally, where he pulled out in the third stage.
Further disappointments followed in the Middle East Rally Championship opener at home as he had to drop out in the penultimate stage due to a mechanical problem. As if it was not enough came the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge debacle when he squandered a whopping 1hr, 46min, 03sec lead as his Toyota Hilux rolled heavily in the final stage.
The only win for him so far this season has been in the second round in Dubai.
But Nasser has always shown the ability to rise from disappointments like a phoenix and he is banking exactly on that.
“I’m a professional driver and I know how to take disappointments in my stride. I’ve been on the road for the last 10-15 years and such setbacks are part of the life. It’s time to forget all those and move forward,” said Nasser.
As the Qatari and his French navigator Mathieu Baumel began their title defence in the revised format of the rally, which has been shortened from five selective sections to four, he knows his target is not going to easy this time.
The entry field includes the who’s who of cross-country rallying, like experienced Czech Miroslav Zapletal, his compatriot Martin Prokop, Poland’s Aron Domzala, South Africa’s Leeroy Poulter, Dutchman Erik van Loon as well as familiar foes — Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and the UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the surprise winner of the last round in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m yet to recover completely from the crash in Abu Dhabi. I still have pain in my neck. But I’m ready to defend my title at home. The field is strong and I hope to push hard,’ added Nasser.
The Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) is also organising a National Baja concurrently with the FIA World Cup.
“We’re delighted to have such a quality international entry for this year’s Qatar Cross-Country Rally. For the first time, we’ve strength in depth across all three categories. The Qatar National Baja competitors may continue the race after the passage control and their points will be counted for overall standings at the Qatar Cross-Country Rally,” said QMMF President Abdulrahman Al Mannai.
The first of four selective sections gets under way on Wednesday and the rally concludes on Saturday. DSP