Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah put the recent Dakar disappointment firmly to the back of his mind when he teamed up with Frenchman Edouard Boulanger for the first time to secure a fourth career victory on the demanding Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the round two of the 2024 FIA World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC).
In so doing, and despite losing chunks of time when he became stuck in the sand dunes on stage three, the Qatari recorded his second victory at the wheel of his Nasser Racing by Prodrive Hunter and leapt into contention to challenge for both the W2RC Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles this year.
Boulanger had won the event for the first time with French legend Stephane Peterhansel and Team Audi Sport in 2022.
Al-Attiyah, who now holds second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Carlos Sainz, said: “It was a nice rally and we enjoyed it a lot. It was a good win. Now we can fight for the title. Still, we have three races and we try to do our best. Thanks to Edouard (Boulanger), he did a fantastic job.”
Boulanger added: “It was clearly a good week discovering Nasser and a new team and this car. Everything went well. We got stuck two times but that is part of the game. I really appreciate the time spent with Nasser. As always, we know he is amazing as a driver when he is pushing in the dunes. This week, we had confirmation of that again.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz shadowed al-Attiyah to the finish to amass a crucial haul of points towards the W2RC’s Ultimate category. The American won one stage in his Toyota GR DKR Hilux through the towering dunes of the UAE’s Western Region but a 15-minute time penalty for missing a route waypoint pushed Quintero down to third overall behind Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk in the final standings.
Their performances also strengthened Toyota Gazoo Racing’s quest to retain the W2RC’s Manufacturers’ Championship. They now lead Nasser Racing by Prodrive by 31 points and al-Rajhi and Quintero move up to fifth and eighth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Early season W2RC pace-setters Guillaume de Mévius and Xavier Panseri had finished second at the Dakar Rally and were second quickest on the opening stage.
But the Belgian requested immediate medical attention after his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux dropped into a big hole in the sand dunes after 24km of stage two. The resultant checks diagnosed a compressed vertebrae in the middle of his back and the Belgian withdrew from the event immediately but was released from hospital the following day. He slips to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. Action in the World Rally-Raid Championship resumes in Portugal and Spain on April 2nd-7th.

Top 5 results
1. Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah (QAT)/Edouard Boulanger (FRA) Prodrive Hunter; Time: 16hr 20min 09sec
2. Yazeed al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux Overdrive; 16hr 36min 34sec
3. Seth Quintero (USA)/Dennis Zenz (DEU) Toyota GR DKR Hilux; 16hr 47min 55sec
4. Austin Jones (USA)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3; 17hr 10min 50sec
5. Rokas Baciuska (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP) Can-Am Maverick X3; 17hr 15min 28sec
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