Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel denied impressive Abu Dhabi win.


2 April 2015

Abu Dhabi, UAE
Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reigning Dakar champion and Olympic medallist Nasser Al-Attiyah’s win at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge has been taken away from him due to a minor violation of his car to the race regulations.

Nasser and French co-driver Mathieu Baumel held a lead of nearly 20 minutes from their closest competitor at the conclusion of the race’s penultimate stage. When the fifth and final stage of desert racing was suspended due to a sandstorm in the Liwa Desert it looked as though the Qatar Rally Team duo had made it five wins out of five in 2015, a remarkable run of results that began with victory at the Dakar Rally.

However, despite Nasser showing his trademark speed over the dunes in Abu Dhabi and Mathieu once again proving himself to be one of the best cross-country navigators in the business, their victory was taken away following post-race scrutineering checks. The duo’s win has been snatched away due to a slight irregularity with the travel on their front suspension. Bent suspension buffers caused by high speed racing over the dunes for an entire week had created a few extra millimetres of travel at the front of the car which the FIA report admitted was not done to intentionally give a sporting advantage to the competitors.

The Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge had got off to the best possible start for the Dakar champions as they recorded the joint fastest time of the ceremonial prologue stage which took place on the tarmac of the Yas Marina Circuit. Then came over 1,000km of sand racing across unforgiving dunes and desert plains. There were mechanical problems on the first desert stage, but Nasser and Mathieu battled back from losing 20 minutes by winning all remaining stages. The duo led the race from the second stage until the finish line, just as they had done at the Dakar earlier this year.


Nasser and Mathieu are currently awaiting the result of their FIA appeal to reclaim the win.

Get the full results of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge here.

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


Nasser Al-Attiyah: “I’m disappointed with the decision that has been taken, but I respect the race stewards. The stewards understand that what happened did not give us any advantage so in my opinion the punishment is too strong in this case. The team is now appealing against the decision so we will wait for the outcome.”

“Our tactics were similar to the Dakar after we were able to establish an early lead in the race. We used our experience on the dunes and sandy terrain to maintain our lead. Last year we won two titles and finished runner-up in another one. Now we are looking to end this season with all three of the titles we are currently competing for.”

Mathieu Baumel: “Because of our stage wins we had to open the road a few times during this race and this is always more difficult. When we are in this position it is our job to create the track. In a race such as this that is 100 percent sand it slows you down because finding the right way is never easy.”

“I’m taking some of good memories away from this race because the landscape in Abu Dhabi is always very beautiful. There are different colours on the dunes; red, yellow and white. Also winning each day with Nasser was a great satisfaction because driving in the dunes is never easy.”

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Vera Dussausaye / Tim Sturtridge / International Motorsports Communication

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