Nasser Al-Attiyah – Red Bull athlete, rally driver, and Olympian – has claimed the runner-up spot on his 12th career Dakar Rally, fighting all the way to the end in his Mini.
During this year’s Dakar, the pace was set by the brand new Peugeot, which Nasser’s older Mini simply could not compete against. However, together with co-driver Mathieu Baumel, the Qatari fought hard from start to finish, setting two fastest stage times and providing the only realistic challenge to Peugeot’s domination.
Nasser said he was driving faster and harder than ever during this year’s two-week event, which concluded this morning with a short and fast 180-kilometre gravel stage from Villa Carlos Paz to Rosario. With the hard work over, after close to 10,000 gruelling kilometres across Argentina and Bolivia, the competitors concentrated on simply bringing their cars home. As Nasser and Mathieu crossed the finish ramp in central Rosario – having set an identical time to Peugeot’s Cyril Despres on the final stage – they were rightly proud of a job well done.
I’m sure we can come back and win…
Over the course of the first week they worked themselves up into a podium place, but when the most difficult stages got underway after the rest day in Salta, Nasser made his move to claim the runner-up spot. He pushed so hard to make the difference that his car even ended up on its side at one point, but in the end he conceded that little could be done against the flying Peugeots.
“It’s been good fun and I’m quite happy to be here in second,” said Nasser. “Apart from one mistake in Fiambala we did a very good rally and I’d like to thank the amazing fans here for being so enthusiastic and my sponsors for supporting me. From the first week we tried really hard to catch the Peugeots, but they were just too quick for us. Congratulations to them: they have done a fantastic job to develop their car. And that’s just the way it is sometimes: we can’t complain about the result. We were certainly driving with an extra gear this time, but for today we wanted just to get the car to the finish and secure the result, which we have done now.”
A vital key to the crew’s success was Baumel’s confident navigation, which enabled them to negotiate some of the most difficult sand dunes ever seen on the Dakar, as well as a huge variety of road conditions in temperatures that ranged from 47 degrees centigrade to nearly zero.
“It’s certainly been an exceptionally tough Dakar,” said Baumel. “In the first week the navigation was not especially difficult, as the stages were more like WRC stages, so it was very clear where to go. The second week was something else, especially straight after the rest day. It was a lot more tricky, with big potential for things to go wrong – as many people found out the hard way. Once more, it’s been an absolute pleasure to co-drive for Nasser. It’s not just his skill, but his calmness under pressure that really makes him stand out.”
After his victory last year and the runner-up spot this year, Nasser has no doubt what the future holds for 2017. “Next year?” he said with a smile at the end of the last stage. “I’m sure we can come back and win…”