|Ha´il Saudi Baja: Dakar-winner Nasser Al Attiyah to start in Saudi Arabia.|
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah has delighted Saudi Arabian rally organisers in Riyadh by confirming that he will take part in next week’s Saudi Arabia Ha’il Desert Challenge in his factory Volkswagen Race Touareg. The FIA-sanctioned event takes place in the north-central region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from February 8-10.
Al-Attiyah made history less than three weeks ago by becoming the first Arab driver ever to win the prestigious Dakar Rally in a feat that has arguably the finest ever achieved by an Arab sportsman or woman. The Qatari is taking part in the Qatar International Rally in Doha this week at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000, but will travel straight to Ha’il from Qatar to attempt to win the Saudi event for the second time in four years.
He and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel dominated the Baja across the An Nafud desert in 2008 at the wheel of an X-raid BMW X3 CC and Al-Attiyah went on to win the FIA Baja Cup and FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies that season.
Nasser will team up with Germany’s experienced co-driver Timo Gottschalk in Saudi Arabia. The pair worked superbly together on the Dakar to claim a stunning victory for the Volkswagen team in Buenos Aires, although Gottschalk will be making his first appearance in Saudi Arabia. The Race Touareg has been airfreighted into Qatar and should ensure that Al-Attiyah starts as a clear favourite to prevent Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi from claiming a hat-trick of victories on his home event.
"I will use the car in which I won the Dakar," said Al-Attiyah, speaking before taking part in the first day of reconnaissance for the 2011 Qatar International Rally on Tuesday. "It was flown to Doha to be on display at the Qatar Motor Show last week and will now go to Saudi Arabia with my truck and a crew of Volkswagen mechanics, Timo and myself. I am very excited about being able to use this car in Ha’il."
The Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) is delighted to have attracted over 40 cars on the provisional entry list for the Kingdom’s premier
off-road rally. Saudi drivers make up the bulk of the field, but there are registered competitors from England, Germany, Wales, France, Qatar, the UAE, Lebanon, Oman and Kuwait.
A generous prize fund will be offered to competitors. The winner will receive 100,000 SR (approx $28,000 USD), with 50,000 SR offered to the runner-up, down to 10,000 SR for fifth position. The winner of the T2 category will earn himself 30,000 SR, with 20,000 SR being awarded to the runner-up and 10,000 SR for third overall.
Scrutineering and documentation takes place on Monday, February 7th, while competitive action gets underway with a timed super special stage after the official starting ceremony on Tuesday, February 8th. Legs two and three will run through the An Nafud desert to the north and west of Ha’il on Wednesday, February 9th and Thursday, February 10th.
2011/02/05 | 19:33 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/PERKINS