Al-Attiyah takes first side-by-side victory at Afriquia Merzouga Rally

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel pick up a new title in a new category.

It was a new challenge, but a familiar result for Qatar’s three-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah in Morocco this week. Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel entered their first side-by-side (SxS) race at the Afriquia Merzouga Rally and, after a typically expert performance over the dunes of Erfoud, the reigning Dakar Rally car class champions have added yet another title to their exceptional offroad careers. Here is all you need to know:

– Al-Attiyah and Baumel were quick to demonstrate their class as they took the win on the first special stage of the rally, a challenging 208km dash over the dunes. On the opening day the duo opened a gap of nearly 20 minutes to their nearest rival.

– On the second stage, a 212km loop, the Dakar winners in their Can-Am SxS machine once again recorded the day’s fastest time despite a slight slip-up.

– “We got lost! In the last five kilometres, we were intent on following a bike in front of us, but it turned out the rider had made a navigational mistake. In the end we didn’t lose too much time and it was still an awesome day,” explained Al-Attiyah

– Stages three and four of the rally combined to make a marathon stage, meaning Al-Attiyah and Baumel would be left on their own, with no mechanical assistance, overnight with their new vehicle. The pair took this in their stride as they recorded the quickest time on both stages to increase their lead in the SxS category.

– The last remaining stage, dubbed the Grand Prix of the Dunes, saw the pair finish the job. They made it a clean sweep of five stage wins as they motored through the 48km final stage, setting the fastest time as they had done all week.

– “I’ve really enjoyed this rally, the atmosphere around the bivouac has been great all week. All the riders, pilots and the organisation together, a really good spirit to the race. Me and Mathieu learned so much this week. I’m hoping now I can come back next year. I’m now a big fan of racing side-by-side and it would be great if we can get some more of the top Dakar guys to try this,” Al-Attiyah commented after the victory.

– “We’ve had a really good time! It’s been a tremendous learning curve, we’ve learned a lot about side-by-side racing. As a co-driver, it’s less stressful than in a car, so it’s more fun. The Afriquia Merzouga Rally is a really good learning step for anyone who wants to discover rally raid,” echoed Baumel.

– Having added the Qatar Cross-Country Rally and now the Afriquia Merzouga Rally to their Dakar Rally title, 2019 is shaping up to be another memorable year for Al-Attiyah and Baumel.

Afriquia Merzouga Rally: SxS Top 3

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT): Can-Am  – 17h 30m 11s
2. Conrad Rautenbach (ZWE): Can-Am –  +01h 36m 29s
3. Juan-Miguel Medero (ARG)   Can-Am –  +01h 59m 28s

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