World Rally-Raid Championship

2024 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge: Nasser Al-Attiyah gets Ultimate redemption

5 Mins read
Credit: Kin Marcin/Red Bull Content Pool

In 2023, Nasser Al-Attiyah was dominating the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge until he rolled his Toyota Hilux in Stage #3, marking his first retirement from an international rally raid in nearly a decade. One year later, now in a Prodrive Hunter, he held off his old Toyota colleagues for the victory.

After a frustrating start to the World Rally-Raid Championship when he was forced to retire from the Dakar Rally, Al-Attiyah quickly regained his footing in Abu Dhabi when he won the Prologue and Stage #1. His former team Toyota Gazoo Racing quickly put the pressure on him from there as his successors Lucas Moraes and Seth Quintero and Overdrive Racing‘s Guerlain Chicherit and reigning winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi gave chase, with Chicherit and Quintero scoring stage wins of their own.

The third stage once again proved to be an unlucky number for Al-Attiyah in the ADDC as he lost the overall lead to Quintero, who enjoyed his first win in the Ultimate category, albeit a bittersweet victory for TGR as Moraes retired after his Hilux caught fire at the finish. Al-Attiyah responded with back-to-back stage wins to close out the rally, the first of which forced Quintero to make up 9:21 on the final day to catch him. A fifteen-minute penalty for missing a waypoint ended Quintero’s pursuit and he lost a spot to Al-Rajhi in the overall.

Unlike at Dakar, where he was joined by six, Al-Attiyah had few allies in Abu Dhabi as Marcos and Cristian Baumgart were the only other Hunters on the grid. Marcos finished fourth, too far back to make the podium, while Cristian retired after a rollover in Stage #1. Although without the strength in numbers, which helped propel Toyota to the lead in the manufacturer’s championship, Al-Attiyah’s Hunter did not let him down like it did in the opener as he scored his fourth ADDC triumph alongside 2008, 2016, and 2021. Prodrive also enjoyed their third W2RC win after Chicherit and Sébastien Loeb at the 2022 Rallye du Maroc and Andalucía Rally, respectively.

The triumph moves Al-Attiyah up to second in the championship behind Carlos Sainz, whose Team Audi Sport shut down after the Dakar due to a lack of parts. The FIA fined the team for their absence as they had registered for the full season. Édouard Boulanger, the navigator for Audi driver and 2022 ADDC champion Stéphane Peterhansel, joined Al-Attiyah for the rest of the season starting in Abu Dhabi.

Quintero might have gone in the opposite direction in the ranking on the final leg, but his third overall is certainly still a highlight in a burgeoning rally career. Abu Dhabi was the reigning W2RC Challenger champion’s second career start in the top category after mechanical issues plagued his début in Dakar.

“It has been a wild ride this week; we opened twice, we won a stage, but here we are, in third place overall,” said Quintero. “I would like to thank the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing team for their work, we had a great car and a great race as a result of their work. While this event wasn’t particularly tough for us, we did see some of the other teams struggle so we are grateful to have completed the rally without any problems. I’ve done about 6,000 kilometres in the GR DKR Hilux EVO T1U now, and I’m feeling more comfortable with the car with each passing kilometre.”

On the other hand, Chicherit and team-mate Guillaume de Mévius left Abu Dhabi wondering what could have been. After de Mévius finished runner-up to Al-Attiyah in Stage #1 and Chicherit won the next day, both retired for the same reason as hard landings on separate days caused the former to suffer a vertebra compression while the latter’s co-driver Alex Winocq hurt his back, leaving Chicherit to finish Stage #4 by himself before exiting. Overdrive team-mate Juan Cruz Yacopini also challenged Al-Attiyah before being involved in a Stage #3 crash with Martin Prokop, and the ensuing repair process led to disqualification because his crew came within one kilometre of the vehicle while in the Selective Section.

Pau Navarro, the only Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus in the field, edged out Saood Variawa for fifth by just two minutes. The top five marked a strong rebound after breaking his hand at Dakar.

UAE native Aliyyah Koloc finished seventh in her first ADDC in Ultimate.

“It is a tricky race, and it will be even trickier in the new car,” Koloc commented. “It is important to be careful and safe because it is hard to read the dunes. The T1+ has more power and is heavier, so that adds some challenges. Also, the dunes are very difficult, with a lot of broken dunes where it is easy to get stuck.”

The aforementioned accident with Yacopini was the icing on top of a very chaotic race for Prokop. Prior to the start, his Ford Raptor was trapped at customs along the Saudi–Emirati border and only arrived in time for very limited private testing before the Prologue. A broken driveshaft in Stage #2 placed him in a hole that he was further plunged into by the crash the next day. He managed to finish third and second in the last two legs, concluding the race in ninth.

Ultimate overall results

1206Nasser Al-AttiyahÉdouard BoulangerNasser RacingT1+16:20:09Leader
2209Yazeed Al-RajhiTimo GottschalkOverdrive RacingT1+16:36:34+ 16:25
3211Seth QuinteroDennis ZenzToyota Gazoo RacingT1+16:47:55+ 27:46
4212Marcos BaumgartKleber CinceaX Rally TeamT1+17:34:39+ 1:14:30
5213Pau NavarroAndreas SchulzX-raid Mini JCW TeamT1+17:47:11+ 1:27:02
6208Saood VariawaFrançois CazaletToyota Gazoo RacingT1+17:49:58+ 1:29:49
7214Aliyyah KolocSébastien DelaunayBuggyra ZM RacingT1+18:31:05+ 2:10:56
8205Denis KrotovKonstantin ZhiltsovOverdrive RacingT1+18:47:17+ 2:27:08
9204Martin ProkopViktor ChytkaORLEN Jipocar TeamT1+21:42:17+ 6:06:04
10217Ahmed El Shamy*Hassan ObaidAhmed El ShamyT1.222:26:13+ 23:40:45
11215Lionel BaudLucie BaudOverdrive RacingT1+40:00:54+ 23:40:45
12218Roman Starikovich*Bert HeskesRoman StarikovichT1.1102:48:53+ 86:28:44
DNF201Guillaume de MéviusXavier PanseriOverdrive RacingT1+DNFN/A
DNF202Guerlain ChicheritAlex WinocqOverdrive RacingT1+DNFN/A
DNF203Lucas MoraesArmand MonleónToyota Gazoo RacingT1+DNFN/A
DNF207Cristian BaumgartAlberto AndreottiX Rally TeamT1+DNFN/A
DSQ210Juan Cruz YacopiniDaniel OliveirasOverdrive RacingT1+DSQN/A
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Ultimate stage winners

PrologueNasser Al-Attiyah3:02.3
Stage #1Nasser Al-Attiyah3:34:53
Stage #2Guerlain Chicherit3:15:58
Stage #3Seth Quintero3:38:45
Stage #4Nasser Al-Attiyah3:12:21
Stage #5Nasser Al-Attiyah2:22:37

W2RC Ultimate standings

Unlike Challenger and SSV, Ultimate does not have its own class-specific trophy and instead has a single championship where drivers from all three points-paying categories are eligible.

For readability, competitors registered for the championship who have not earned points are excluded.

Drivers’ standings

1Carlos Sainz76Leader
2Nasser Al-Attiyah67– 9
3Guerlain Chicherit64– 12
4Guillaume de Mévius62– 14
5Yazeed Al-Rajhi51– 25
6Lucas Moraes45– 31
7Martin Prokop36– 40
8Seth Quintero35– 41
9Mathieu Serradori32– 44
T-10Austin Jones26– 50
T-10Rokas Baciuška26– 50
T-10Denis Krotov26– 50
13Saood Variawa22– 54
T-14Cristian Baumgart16– 60
T-14Yasir Seaidan16– 60
16Mattias Ekström15– 61
17Marcos Baumgart14– 62
18Stéphane Peterhansel13– 63
T-19Mitch Guthrie11– 65
T-19Juan Cruz Yacopini11– 65
21Pau Navarro9– 67
22Sebastián Guayasamín7– 69
23Aliyyah Koloc6– 70
T-24Sara Price4– 72
T-24Eugenio Amos4– 72
T-24Dania Akeel4– 72
T-27Krzysztof Hołowczyc3– 73
T-27Rebecca Busi3– 73
29Marcelo Gastaldi2– 74

Co-drivers’ standings

1Lucas Cruz76Leader
2Alex Winocq64– 12
T-3Xavier Panseri62– 14
T-3Édouard Boulanger62– 14
5Timo Gottschalk51– 25
6Armand Monleón45– 31
7Viktor Chytka36– 40
8Dennis Zenz35– 41
9Loïc Minaudier32– 44
T-10Oriol Vidal26– 50
T-10Konstantin Zhiltsov26– 50
12François Cazalet22– 54
13Oriol Mena19– 57
14Mathieu Baumel18– 58
15Alberto Andreotti16– 60
16Emil Bergkvist15– 61
17Kleber Kincea14– 62
T-18Kellon Walch11– 65
T-18Daniel Oliveiras11– 65
T-18Michaël Metge11– 65
21Andreas Schulz9– 67
T-22Gustavo Gugelmin7– 69
T-22Fernando Matias Acosta7– 69
24Sébastien Delaunay6– 70
25Adrien Metge5– 71
T-26Paolo Ceci4– 72
T-26Jeremy Gray4– 72
T-26Stéphane Duplé4– 72
T-29Łukasz Kurzeja3– 42
T-29Sergio Lafuente3– 42
31Carlos Sachs2– 43

Manufacturers’ standings

2Prodrive77– 31
3Audi76– 32
4Mini35– 73
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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