Nasser Al-Attiyah gets fired up for Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
Nasser Al-Attiyah © Red Bull Content Pool
Thursday, March 31, 2016
Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Offroad ace Nasser Al-Attiyah is getting in gear to defend his FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup title at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Nasser and co-driver Mathieu Baumel were in imperious form last season as they collected five races wins en route to securing a memorable overall triumph. The duo are now back on the road with the aim of winning back-to-back World Cups.
It promises to be another intriguing year of racing for the pair as they trade in last year’s MINI for a Toyota Hilux for the six-day race in the United Arab Emirates. Toyota have enjoyed plenty of recent success at the Dakar Rally with cars on the podium at four of the last five editions of the offroad marathon. This means Nasser arrives in Abu Dhabi with a vehicle that allows him to challenge for top spot.
With double championship points up for grabs in Abu Dhabi it will be vital for Nasser to get the new season off to a flying start given the packed schedule he has on his hands for the year ahead. It seems inevitable that the Qatari will miss two 2016 World Cup races due to competing in the men’s skeet shooting event at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio. Nasser won a bronze medal at the same event in London four years ago and is aiming to put his country on the medals table once again.
With a midseason break ahead of them, it’s essential that Nasser and Mathieu get the new Cross Country Rally World Cup off to a great start and a win in Abu Dhabi is the clear target. A runners-up result in the Dakar at the beginning of the year was the most recent example of Nasser’s expert offroad driving abilities and Mathieu’s eagle eyed navigational skills. Both men will once again need to be on the top of their game if they are to make it a repeat of Nasser’s win at this event in 2008.
The action gets underway on Saturday, April 2 with a prologue stage on the tarmac of the Yas Marina Circuit before nearly 1,500km of dune crossings in the Liwa Desert spread over five days. A challenging route and a world class field of competitors must be overcome if Nasser and Mathieu are to celebrate a winning result on Thursday, April 7.
Find out more about two-time Dakar Rally champion and Olympic medallist Nasser Al-Attiyah on RedBull.com.
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Toyota have done a really good job developing cars to race in cross country events in the past few years and their recent results at the Dakar prove how fast their machines can be. It is a new challenge for me to race with Toyota and I hope I can give the team their first cross country win.
“I have known Giniel de Villiers for a long time now, we were team-mates with Volkswagen during a period when we both won the Dakar. Giniel has been driving a Toyota Hilux at the last few editions of the Dakar and he has achieved fantastic podium results during this time. Now my aim is to take the Hilux across the finish line in first place at a cross country rally.
“This year I will compete in my sixth Olympic Games and after my bronze in London four years ago I want to win gold in Rio if I can. I certainly want to win another medal. As well as training for the Olympics I will also compete in as many rallies as I can this year, always with the aim of securing a winning result.”
Mathieu Baumel: “I think that the navigation is going to be even more difficult this year compared to last year. Instead of waypoints being in the open, the decision has been taken to hide some waypoints and that is going to make things interesting. People will be making mistakes so we’ll do our best to make sure it’s not us doing the mistakes out there.
“The driving will be a challenge for sure, with so many sandy tracks to race on. With Nasser the goal at any rally or rally raid event is always the same; we want to win. We will be doing the maximum we can to defend out World Cup title in 2016.
“Racing in the Yas Marina Circuit is always a good thing and when you spend so much time racing in the desert this prologue stage in Abu Dhabi is a great chance to show the fans how we drive. It’s like putting on a show for the fans before the desert racing begins.”