Al-Attiyah dominates Dakar Rally
Nasser Al-Attiyah added another chapter to his colourful Dakar story.
Qatar Rally Team driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel have dominated the Dakar Rally, leading from day two all the way to the finish and going fastest on six stages. The duo stretched their advantage over the course of the 9,000-kilometre, 14-day rally, to eventually win by 35 minutes from Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz.
This was Nasser's second win on the Dakar following his triumph in 2011. In 2010 he had finished second to Carlos Sainz after the closest finish in Dakar history: 2m32s. And now he has added another chapter to his colourful Dakar story, thanks to a flawless performance on every surface: sand, gravel, rocks, mountains and desert.
This Dakar has been 100% perfect for us: the car, the navigation, the team and the tyres have all been perfect. It could not have gone any better.
Nasser’s latest success means that he joins a very exclusive club of multiple Dakar car category winners, populated by René Metge, Ari Vatanen, Pierre Lartigue, Jean-Louis Schlesser, Hiroshi Masuoka, and Stéphane Peterhansel. In fact, Nasser’s dominant performance this year echoes that of Vatanen in 1990, exactly 25 years ago, when he was fastest on the first stage and never lost the lead until the end.
The final stage of the rally today was shortened to just 34 kilometres from the original 174 that were planned, due to heavy rainfall damaging the roads. For Nasser and Matthieu, it was a question of just getting through the stage while taking zero risks, before embarking on the extended road section back to Buenos Aires. At 3pm exactly, they crossed the podium at Tecnopolis, just outside the city centre, to formally seal victory on the 35th running of the Dakar Rally, having driven 9,112 impecable kilometres.
For Matthieu, it was a particularly special moment as this was his first Dakar win, on the occasion of his 39th birthday.
Nasser said: “From the start of the rally I always said that I wanted to make this special present for Matthieu and now we have succeeded. This Dakar has been 100% perfect for us: the car, the navigation, the team and the tyres have all been perfect. It could not have gone any better.
Since last year we’ve been working very hard to prepare for this rally, and I would like to thank all my supporters, especially Red Bull and Ooredoo, for making this possible. This victory means a huge amount to me: from the start my feeling was that we were completely under control, but of course I could not relax for a second as we have seen in the past that anything can happen.”
Matthieu added: “Everything was stress-free, which made things a bit easier for us than the others and meant that I could concentrate completely on the navigation. Nasser was fantastic: there was very calm atmosphere in the car, which allowed us to control things and lead from start to finish, even at difficult moments such as the stages at high altitude. It’s an extraordinary feeling to win: especially on my birthday!"
The final stage, between Rosario and Buenos Aires, was fast with plenty of loose gravel, but Nasser was content to finish sixth with a time of just 13m55s – closer to a WRC stage time than a rally raid stage time.
The Qatari was helped both by his experience of the WRC – he is currently reigning WRC2 champion and a 10-time Middle East Rally Championship title holder – and of skeet shooting, where he is an Olympic medallist. “In all of these disciplines, you have to believe in yourself and keep your nerve,” explained Nasser, who managed his pace brilliantly throughout the 13 stages. “One thing is for sure: you cannot always go flat-out here.
So the secret is knowing when to push and when not to push. This year, with the help of Matthieu, we got it exactly right. But of course, I am already looking forward to coming back next year to try again. I expect the competition will be even tougher after seeing the progression teams such as Peugeot have made this time. For sure 2016 will be a very interesting battle.”
Results of SS13
1. Robby Gordon (USA)/Johnny Campbell (USA) Gordini 0h 13m 16s
2. Leeroy Poulter (RSA)/Robert Howie (RSA) Toyota +00:00:25
3. Emiliano Spataro (ARG)/Benjamin Lozada (ARG) Renault +00:00:29
4. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini +00:00:31
5. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:00:34
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team +00:00:39
Overall ranking after SS13
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team 40h 32m 25s
2. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:35:34
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini +01:32:01
4. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini +03:01:52
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +03:12:41
6. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Toyota +03:15:58
7. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +03:42:02
8. Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mitsubishi +03:44:59
9. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) Mini +04:08:44
10. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) SMG +04:42:36
Qatar Rally Team
Pain signs off with overall top ten finish after shortened Dakar finale
Zhou's best performance