The Cross Country Rally World Champion is the main favourite in the home event that opens the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is the firm favourite to win the 2017 Qatar International Rally, the opening round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship being organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), on February 3-4.
The local star – cross country rally World Champion – continues to set the benchmark for regional cross-country and special stage rallying and holds the traditional opening round of the MERC close to his heart.
Al-Attiyah has won the two-day event through the deserts of the State of Qatar on an unprecedented 13 occasions and is keen to bounce back to winning ways after suffering a disappointing and premature retirement from the Dakar Rally earlier this month, due to a suspensions failure while he was leading the race on the Toyota Hilux.
Beaten only once in the event since his first victory in 2003, Al-Attiyah has gone on to win 63 MERC rallies and 12 regional titles with five co-drivers used to secure his Qatar successes.
After winning his first Qatar event with England’s Steve Lancaster, Al-Attiyah secured five successive wins with Ulster’s Chris Patterson, one win with Sweden’s Tina Thörner, four with Italy’s Giovanni Bernacchini and the last two with his current navigator Matthieu Baumel, with whom he secured last year’s MERC title and the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
Al-Attiyah and Baumel will drive a Skoda Fabia R5 on this year’s Qatar International Rally, which is being held under the supervision of QMMF President Abdulrahman Al-Mannai and Executive Director Sultan Al-Muraikhi.
“This has always been a special rally for me and one where I have a fantastic record,” said Al-Attiyah. “It is never an easy event and the nature of the stages here mean that you have to drive sensibly to avoid damaging the car. This year will be no different, but Matthieu and I are looking forward to getting back in the car and starting our rallying campaign off with a win.”
Race organisers have planned six special stages on day one (Friday, February 3), in a day that incorporates one remote refuelling point and no servicing of the cars. Remote servicing is permitted as part of a revised day two schedule that includes a further six timed tests on Saturday, February 4th.
The event is based within the Losail circuit, north of Doha, and the race circuit will host administration checks, scrutineering and media and rally facilities.