Qatar's Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani returns
Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will kick-start his preparations for the forthcoming Dakar Rally by taking part in this weekend's NBK Group Qatar Baja at the wheel of a BMW X5, built by Sven Quandt's team from Trebur in Germany.
The car was used by Spanish team mate Jose-Luis Monterde and Italian co-driver Tiziano Siviero in the recent UAE Desert Challenge and finished second overall.
Al-Attiyah and French co-driver Alain Guehennec have joined Quandt's X-Raid team for the Dakar Rally, starting in Lisbon on New Year's Eve. The team decided that Al-Attiyah's home event in Qatar was an ideal opportunity to test the team's spare X5 in competition before the Dakar. The Qatari won the Qatar Baja last year in a powerful Pro-Truck and will drive a new BMW X3CC in the Dakar.
"I was not able to drive in the UAE Desert Challenge, because the event clashed with Rally Australia," said Nasser, the recently-crowned FIA Middle East champion, who also finished second overall in the 2005 P-WRC Championship. "But the terrain we cross on the Baja is perfect for a Dakar Rally test. There are dunes, gravel stages and some good competition, so that I can get back into the swing of cross-country rallying after a season on the special stages in a Subaru Impreza."
Al-Attiyah's X5 for the Baja and X3CC for the Dakar have been fitted with factory-built engines and were assembled by Quandt's team in Germany. The diesel-engined X5 is one of the most powerful cars in all-terrain motorsport and took victories in both the Baja Spain and Baja Germany with Frenchman Luc Alphand.
The highlight of the car's competitive history was a stunning FIA World Cup win for Dubai's Khalifa Al-Motaiwi in 2004, including an outright victory in the gruelling Por Las Pampas Rally in Argentina last November.
While Al-Attiyah tests the BMW in the Qatar Baja and mentally prepares himself to try and clinch a staggering eighth successive MERC win in Dubai in December, the 1993 FIA Middle East Rally Champion Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani will be hoping to put the disappointment of having to pull out of the UAE Desert Challenge behind him.
The Qatari will take part in the final round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas in a Nissan Pathfinder, alongside co-driver George Saryan. Sheikh Hamed was a regular competitor in special stage rallies in the 1990s and clinched the regional rally series in a Toyota after a run of consistent performances back in 1993.
Qatar will be strongly represented in the cars' category. Khalifa Khalifa Al-Attiyah and co-driver Rashid Sulaiti will take part in a T1 Land Rover, Abdullah Al-Rabban and Saoud Al-Shafi wheel out a Buggy, Jaralla Al-Marri and Mohammed Al-Marri have entered a Land Rover, while Mohammed Al-Manai (Nissan Patrol), Mohammed Ali Aldahak (Nissan Patrol), Jamal Fakhroo Fakhroo (Subaru) and George Coleman (Nissan Patrol) also grace the entry list of 29 cars.
The T1 and T2 section for cars features entries from Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Kuwait, Lithuania, Russia and the UAE, including Spaniard Marc Blazquez and Portugal's Rui Sousa, who are set to decide the outcome of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.
Organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF), officials taking part in the NBK Qatar Baja are based at the Movenpick Hotel in Doha. Scrutineering takes place on the Doha Corniche on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, while the official start will be at 14.00 hrs on Thursday on the Doha Corniche. This will be followed by a timed Prologue stage at 14.30 hrs.
The event has attracted support from the NBK Group, Qatar National Bank, NK Portakabin, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Navigation.
Press Release NBK Group Qatar Baja