Driver Naser Al-Attiyah on his storied career, ‘thrilling’ Jordan rally

(Photos: Handouts from Nasser Al-Attiyah)
AMMAN — With a penchant for speed and a desire to make his country proud, Qatari rally champion Naser Al-Attiyah built his own four-wheel Nissan Patrol at 18 years old and raced for the first time.اضافة اعلان

“I finished that first race in second place and have been in love with racing ever since,” Attiyah told Jordan News in an exclusive interview.

Attiyah traces his beginnings as an aspiring racer back to his days as a 15-year-old boy, watching the Middle East Rally Championship, but his knack for sport kicked in even earlier.

“I could sense my talent when I was in school as I had always been inclined towards sport, having a strong desire to achieve something for my country since the age of 13.”

Coming from a family of pilots, Attiyah spoke of a time when he also dreamt of taking to the skies.

“I had dreams of becoming a pilot, especially since my cousins were pilots and I was the youngest among them. They graduated from flight school in the UK, one of them is Minister Khaled bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah (of Qatar), in whose footsteps I dreamt of following.”

The racer described the detour that led him away from aviation as mere coincidence, saying his cousin had a problem with his co-driver, so he entered the race to fill in and the duo came in second place. 

“I was thrilled by the experience and later decided to take part myself, where I overtook my cousin and came in second,” Attiyah added.

Today, Attiyah holds three Dakar Rally titles (2011, 2015, and 2019).

The annual tournament sees drivers speeding through the desert for anywhere between 10 and 15 days. The terrain is often grueling and the conditions treacherous.

“I first started to think about participating in the Dakar Rally in 2000. It was my dream to participate and I had the chance to do so in 2004,” Attiyah said. ”We took off in France and raced all the way to Senegal. It was a beautiful experience and I always finished in the top 10.”

In 2019, Attiyah won all 11 rounds of the Jordan Rally, securing his eighth consecutive, and thirteenth overall, win. He also commended Jordanian racers and the rally itself, calling it “thrilling”.

He described his most recent experience competing in the Jordan Rally as his “most beautiful and challenging,” lauding the late King Hussein’s support of motorsports.

He added: “We thank His Majesty King Abdullah, whom we consider to be our leader in motorsports, and HRH Prince Feisal, chairman of the Jordan Motorsport Council. Their interest in this long-established sport has had tremendous impact in supporting it.”

The racer acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on sports, and while 2020 may have been uneventful for most athletes across the globe, Attiyah was an exception.

“We started the year (2020) strong, coming in second in the Dakar Rally, held in Saudi Arabia early in the year, and winning the Qatar Cross Country Rally,” Attiyah said. He went on to finish first in the Oman, Cyprus, Andalucía, and Hail rallies, as well as capture a Middle East Rally Championship title.

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