| Friday, April 5
It was a new challenge, but a familiar result for three-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) in Morocco this week. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) entered their first side-by-side (SxS) race at the Afriquia Merzouga Rally. After expert navigation and driving over the dunes of Erfoud the reigning Dakar Rally car class champions have added yet another title to their exceptional offroad careers.
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 208-kilometre 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 212-kilometre 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.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Stages three and four of the Merzouga 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 Al-Attiyah and Baumel finish off the job. They made it a clean sweep of five stage wins as they motored through the 48-kilometre final stage, setting the fastest time as they had done all week.
“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.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
With wins now in 2019 at the Dakar Rally, the Qatar Cross-Country Rally and now the Afriquia Merzouga Rally it’s shaping up to be another memorable year for Al-Attiyah and Baumel. Whichever desert they appear in next, we’ll be sure to bring you all the racing news.
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Find all clips, newscuts, still images, and stories covering the 2019 Afriquia Merzouga Rally here
Afriquia Merzouga Rally: SxS Top 3
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Can-Am 17h30m11s
2. Conrad Rautenbach (ZWE) Can-Am +01h36m29s
3. Juan-Miguel Medero (ARG) Can-Am +01h59m28s
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “It’s fantastic to compete in the Afriquia Merzouga Rally. 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 learnt 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.”
Mathieu Baumel: “We have had a really good time! It’s been a tremendous learning curve, we’ve learnt a lot about side-by-side racing. As a co-driver, it is 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.”
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