One of the worst-kept secrets in rally raid is finally revealed as Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel are officially heading to Prodrive. They will make their débuts in the Prodrive Hunter at this week’s Baja Portalegre 500 before pursuing their third consecutive Dakar Rally win and World Rally-Raid Championship in 2024, racing under the Nasser Racing banner.
Al-Attiyah’s contract with Toyota Gazoo Racing expired following the Desafío Ruta 40 in September, though he elected to finish out the W2RC season with them at the Rallye du Maroc; while not finishing the rally, he clinched the title in the second stage. He confirmed his free agency status in July after winning the Baja Aragón, with BRX and M-Sport expressing interest in his services as did TGR’s cousin Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa. The parent TGR team also wanted to extend his deal, though Baumel has mentioned he and Al-Attiyah see little long-term value in staying while remaining competitive.
By moving to Prodrive, he joins a manufacturer that had been his main rival since 2021. He defeated Sébastien Loeb for the 2022 title and kept him at bay through the first three rounds of the 2023 season until Prodrive skipped the DR 40 to focus on Morocco, dropping out of championship contention as a result.
“It is a very special feeling to come to Prodrive as I have seen over the last three years that the team has worked very hard to get to where they are now with the Hunter,” said Al-Attiyah. “I’m so happy to join the Prodrive team with Mathieu as I believe it will be one of the strongest in the sport. Over the years I have won with three different manufacturers in Rally Raid, but to win with a fourth car is a big target for us. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Al-Attiyah departs Toyota after a wildly successful seven-year stint that includes three Dakar Rally wins, two World Rally-Raid Championships, three World Cups for Cross-Country Rallies (predecessor to the W2RC), and two World Cups for Cross-Country Bajas.
In fact, starting the Baja Portalegre 500 clinches him his second Bajas title a round early. Due to the cancellation of the season-ending Jordan Baja, the five of seven best results are counted rather than the usual six of eight; his three wins and runner-up in his first four starts give him an insurmountable seventy-point lead over Juan Cruz Yacopini. Al-Attiyah is the first driver to complete the cross-country “triple crown”, having also won the Dakar Rally and W2RC in 2023. While already the Bajas champion, he will run the new finale at the Dubai International Baja in November to get more track time in the Hunter.
Prodrive will field seven Hunters at Dakar. Loeb returns to Prodrive’s factory partner Bahrain Raid Xtreme, while Cristian and Marcos Baumgart are heading back to the event as X Rally Team. The Chinese-based YunXiang Racing will also take part, having run their maiden race with a Hunter piloted by Sun Ping at the Taklimakan Rally in the spring.
“To have Nasser and Mathieu, the reigning World Rally-Raid Champions, join us for the 2024 season in the Prodrive Hunter is great news,” commented Prodrive chairman David Richards. “We look forward to working closely with them both as we work hard toward Dakar in January. Nasser’s successes speak for themselves and with so many championships to his name, I am certain that the pairing will perform strongly in the Hunter.”
The 2024 W2RC begins with the Dakar Rally on 5 January.