Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, Al Attiyah strikes back!

alattiyah addc win

The 2023 world champion and his runner-up had a dreadful start to the third season of the W2RC by failing to finish the Dakar. Nasser Al Attiyah and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) landed in Abu Dhabi in eighth and twelfth place in the championship, respectively.

To get back in the game, the Qatari three-time winner of the ADDC and the Saudi reigning champion had no choice but to repeat their usual feats that saw them win all five rounds on the 2023 calendar between the two. Nasser Al Attiyah, by winning the ADDC for the fourth time in his career after his victories in 2008, 2016 and 2021, and Yazeed Al Rajhi, by taking second place, fully lived up to their status as the reigning number 1 and 2.

Neither of them could have imagined that their rivals, who had been so strong in the Dakar, would flop big time in round 2, starting with Guillaume de Mévius and Guerlain Chicherit. The Overdrive Racing teammates, second and third respectively in the championship after the Dakar, were near the front before the former suffered a vertebral compression fracture in stage 2 and the latter had his co-driver airlifted for the exact same reason in stage 4. Lucas Moraes saw his Hilux go up in smoke at the end of stage 3. Seth Quintero (Toyota Gazoo Racing) dodged the bullet and was the only one to take on Nasser Al Attiyah for the win. Ensconced in the overall lead at the end of the infamous stage 3, the American finished on the podium of the race, as he had done last year behind the wheel of his lightweight prototype. Al Attiyah (67 points) rose to second place in the championship, behind the winner of the Dakar, Carlos Sainz (76 points). Guerlain Chicherit (64 points) and Guillaume de Mévius (62 points) slid down to third and fourth place, respectively, while Yazeed Al Rajhi (50 points) moved up to fifth.

The new Toyota Gazoo Racing drivers, Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero, are now in sixth and eighth place, respectively.   Nasser Al Attiyah and his new co-driver, Édouard Boulanger, hit the ground running in their first race together. It is the Frenchman’s second triumph in the race, following his success with Peterhansel in 2022. Prodrive got its third W2RC victory, following Sébastien Loeb’s win in the 2022 Andalucía Rally and Guerlain Chicherit’s top spot in the Rallye du Maroc the same year. Marcos Baumgart (X Rally Team Motorsports), in the other Prodrive Hunter, bagged sixth place in the ADDC. In the world constructors’ championship, these two performances helped Prodrive to grab second place, with 78 points to Toyota’s 108.  

In this second round, it was also worth noting the solid final positions of the young Pau Navarro in a Mini JCW T1+ from X-Raid, ninth ahead of Saood Variawa who, at the tender age of 18, made his W2RC debut this season with Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa. Aliyyah Koloc (Buggyra ZM Racing) and her Red-Lined came in thirteenth. Talk about whiz kids!   The old-timers Denis Krotov (Overdrive Racing) and Martin Prokop (Orlen Jipocar) got bogged down together in stage 3 before Juan Cruz Yacopini rear-ended the Czech. Out of the game, the driver of “Shrek” was unable to repeat his podiums from the last two years, despite some flashes of brilliance that proved that he remains an ADDC expert.  

Austin Jones and Rokas Baciuška nailed a Can-Am Factory double in the Challenger class as well as fourth and fifth places overall. Dania Akeel (Taurus Factory Wevers) rounded out the podium among the championship entrants. In the W2RC standings, the Lithuanian (114 points), a two-time SSV world champion, and the American (100 points) headed out of Abu Dhabi by toppling Mitch Guthrie (85 points). Yasir Seaidan (MMP) beat Sebastián Guayasamín (FN Speed) and Rebecca Busi (OnlyFans Racing) in the SSV race. The Saudi has put in a virtuoso performance since the start of the season and now leads the championship with 146 points to the Ecuadorian’s 87. The Italian climbed up to sixth with 45 points.