Posted on March 31, 2016

Offroad race Nasser Al-Attiyah is getting in gear to defend his FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup title at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. Nasser and co-driver Mathieu Baumel were in imperious form last season as they collected five races wins en route to securing a memorable overall triumph.

The duo are now back on the road with the aim of winning back-to-back World Cups. It promises to be another intriguing year of racing for the pair as they trade in last year’s MINI for a Toyota Hilux for the six-day race in the United Arab Emirates. Toyota have enjoyed plenty of recent success at the Dakar Rally with cars on the podium at four of the last five editions of the offroad marathon. This means Nasser arrives in Abu Dhabi with a vehicle that allows him to challenge for top spot.

With double championship points up for grabs in Abu Dhabi it will be vital for Nasser to get the new season off to a flying start given the packed schedule he has on his hands for the year ahead. It seems inevitable that the Qatari will miss two 2016 World Cup races due to competing in the men’s skeet shooting event at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio. Nasser won a bronze medal at the same event in London four years ago and is aiming to put his country on the medals table once again.

With a midseason break ahead of them, it’s essential that Nasser and Mathieu get the new Cross Country Rally World Cup off to a great start and a win in Abu Dhabi is the clear target. A runners-up result in the Dakar at the beginning of the year was the most recent example of Nasser’s expert offroad driving abilities and Mathieu’s eagle eyed navigational skills. Both men will once again need to be on the top of their game if they are to make it a repeat of Nasser’s win at this event in 2008.

The action gets underway on Saturday, April 2 with a prologue stage on the tarmac of the Yas Marina Circuit before nearly 1,500km of dune crossings in the Liwa Desert spread over five days. A challenging route and a world class field of competitors must be overcome if Nasser and Mathieu are to celebrate a winning result on Thursday, April 7.

Find out more about two-time Dakar Rally champion and Olympic medallist Nasser Al-Attiyah on