Consistency is key for Al-Attiyah
He only won two of the 12 stages, but Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah kept his eyes on the bigger picture to claim his fourth Dakar Rally win. This one was extra special for the Qatari, given that his previous three – in 2011, ’15 and ’19 – had been earned when the event ran in South America. To win in Saudi Arabia, in his home region, is another signpost to the middle east’s growing influence and power in world motorsport.
The first stage set the tone for the event as navigational complications set back the challenges of a number of his rivals. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel and nine-time World Rally Championship king Sébastien Loeb and Fabian Luquin made it through without major delay, but for the likes of Carlos Sainz – who lost a devastating two hours on the test in his new Audi – hopes of victory were already lost.
Loeb too had his problems, losing half an hour to propshaft trouble on stage three, and at one point the Prodrive hero had dropped 50 minutes to the leading Toyota. But 47-year-old Loeb never gave up and put in a charge to finish 27 minutes 46 seconds down on Al-Attiyah.
To add to the significance and joy for middle eastern motorsport, Saudi local Yazeed Al-Rajhi secured third place and a podium finish in his Toyota entered by the independent Overdrive team. The Formula 1 grand prix, Formula E races in Diriyah, Extreme E choosing the kingdom last year for its maiden event… as if you hadn’t noticed already, Saudi Arabia is very much established on the motor sportmap – for better or for worse, depending on your point of view.
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