At 52, Qatar's 'Superman' Al-Attiyah Wins His Fifth Dakar Rally Title

Al-Attiyah is the only Middle Eastern and West Asian to win the Dakar Rally more than once
2023 Toyota Gazoo Racing's Nasser Al-Attiyah celebrates winning the car category. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
5- Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar produced a dominant performance to secure his fifth Dakar Rally driver's title. © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

"My story is included in schoolchildren's history books," Nasser Al-Attiyah proudly told ESPN in 2017.

The Prince of Dunes has left his mark on the racing world and ensured that another chapter will be added after winning his fifth Dakar Rally driver's title.

Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah of Qatar, a Man of History, has won the Dakar Rally driver's title for the fifth time and the second time in a row last Sunday after an iconic endurance race concluded in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Al-Attiyah had more than an hour's lead in the overall standings over Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, who was also runner-up last year.

The Dakar Rally is an annual rally race that was once held from Paris to Dakar. Due to security concerns in Mauritania, the event was relocated to South America in 2009, and has since been held in Saudi Arabia.

This year's edition, the longest ever held in Saudi Arabia, ended in Dammam after covering over 8,000 kilometers in harsh weather and terrain.

2023 Toyota Gazoo Racing's Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel celebrate winning the car category. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Lucas Moraes of Brazil, Al-Attiyah’s Toyota teammate, finished third. After a commanding lead in the first week and a safety-first strategy in the second half of the race, Al-Attiyah took the overall lead after the third stage.

Loeb gave it his all in the second week, winning a record six consecutive stages for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team. However, the 48-year-old Frenchman had lost so much time in the first part of the race that he was out of contention.

"We just finished, and I'm overjoyed. Everyone had a difficult time in Dakar. It's incredible that I've been able to defend my title. I'm overjoyed to have won five times," Al-Attiyah enthused after his victory.

The five-time Dakar Rally winner is a Qatari rally driver and sport shooter who was born in Doha on December 21, 1970. Al-Attiyah has spent over a decade competing at a world level in two different sports. The Qatari made his ISAF World Shooting Championship debut in 1994, and while he has never won a medal at the championships, he has medaled at the World Cup level. Al-Attiyah, a two-time Asian champion, was a member of the Qatari team that won team skeet gold at the 2002 Asian Games.

Since 2003, the Qatari driver has competed in the Middle East Rally Championship, winning 65 races and 13 titles. He drove a Subaru Impreza until 2009 and a Ford Fiesta since 2010, with the exception of two rounds in 2012 in which he drove a Peugeot 207 and two rounds in 2016 in which he drove a Skoda Fabia.

From 2004 to 2009, the 52-year-old also competed in the Production World Rally Championship. During his third year in the championship, he won in 2006 driving a Subaru Impreza with co-driver Chris Patterson. After finishing second in the PWRC class at Rally Mexico, he took the championship lead and went on to win the next two rounds, Rally Argentina and Acropolis Rally.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Media/ZUMA Press Wire Service

He also came in second in 2005 and third in 2009. During the 2009 season, he earned his first points by finishing eighth overall in the Rally Argentina.

Al-Attiyah competed in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship for the Barwa Rally Team in 2010 and 2011, finishing seventh overall in both years. For the 2012 season, Al-Attiyah joined the Qatar World Rally Team and competed in the top division. He finished fourth at the Rally de Portugal. He switched to a Ford Fiesta WRC in 2013. He finished fifth overall in three races and 11th overall in the final standings.

In 2014, Al-Attiyah returned to the WRC-2 and won the championship with four wins in a Ford Fiesta RRC. With three victories in 2015, he successfully defended his championship.

Al-Attiyah finished second in the 2010 Dakar Rally, 2'12" behind Carlos Sainz, the smallest gap in the race's history. On January 15, 2011, Al-Attiyah won the legendary Dakar race ahead of fellow Volkswagen drivers Sainz and Giniel de Villiers, becoming the only Arab to do so.

Photo Credit: Mathieu Baumel © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Al-Attiyah won the 2015 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, the 2015 Dakar Rally, and the 2016 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup for Toyota, driving a Mini All4 Racing X-Raid.

Al-Attiyah won the Silk Way Rally in 2019 while driving a Toyota Hilux for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. In the 2019 Baja 1000, he finished second. He also took first place in the 2019 Dakar Rally.

In 2022, Al-Attiyah won the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia, becoming the only Arab to do so, ahead of nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb (co-driver Fabian Lurquin). He'd also take home the inaugural FIA World Rally-Raid Championship.

Since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Al-Attiyah has competed in every Olympics in skeet shooting, demonstrating the same tenacity he has shown in countless Dakar Rallies to secure a medal of any kind.

In shooting, Al-Attiyah finished fourth in clay pigeon shooting at the 2004 Olympic Games and 15th overall at the 2008 Olympic Games, missing out on qualification for the final round by two points. He won the bronze medal in a shoot-out against Valeriy Shomin at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Photo Credit: C. Lopez/A.S.O.

"Because of the intense concentration required in rally driving, shooting has helped me excel. It helped me maintain my mental fortitude," he told Qatari website Q Life in 2018.

For the time being, Al-Attiyah is waiting for a new generation to take his place.

"If you find another Nasser, the Qatar government says you can retire. Until now, no one else is like me, so I'll keep shooting," he told ESPN.

Al-Attiyah is the only Middle Eastern and West Asian to have won the Dakar Rally more than once, and if he wins gold in Paris next year, he may have a history book written entirely about him.


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