Q&A with Nasser Al-Attiyah
"I was proud when I learned the WTCC would be coming to Qatar"
Nasser Al-Attiyah will make his FIA World Touring Car Championship debut when the 2015 season reaches a spectacular climax in his native Qatar for the inaugural WTCC night race. This is what the Middle East sporting hero had to say ahead of the action getting underway at the Losail International Circuit.
What does it mean to you that the WTCC is coming to Qatar?
“I was proud when I learned the WTCC would be coming to Qatar but I’m even more proud to say that I will be part of the action. It will be real honour for me to represent my country when it hosts the FIA World Touring Car Championship for the first time. Qatar has successfully staged MotoGP events for a number of years and securing an FIA world championship will only enhance the country’s reputation as a sporting destination.”
How excited are you to be competing in the inaugural WTCC Race of Qatar?
“I’m very excited because this is something I’ve never done before. I really want to see the top drivers racing in my own country and to be a part of it. Most of the drivers I know really well, people like Sébastien Loeb from rallying, [José María] López from when I have been to Argentina. It’s an important race and I was really pushing for this from the beginning with our federation, the QMMF. The WTCC coming to my country is really good and I’m really excited about this.”
Are you expecting a tough challenge?
“Of course it will not be easy because I have not raced a World Touring Car before or in front-wheel drive for that matter. But I have the opportunity to be in this championship for one round, I realise it will not be easy but I will do my best to enjoy and maybe try to be in the top eight in the races.”
You are obviously very experienced when it comes to rallying but how much circuit racing have you done during your career?
“Actually I did a few years ago the Porsche Cup in GT3. It was really nice and I enjoy a lot. It was one season but then I was really so busy with rallying and the cross-country so it was not possible to do more.”
What’s your target for WTCC Race of Qatar?
“Of course I want to get the experience of the World Touring Car Championship and to finish the two races. But I also want to push myself to the limit for this kind of race. I know the Losail International Circuit really well and this will be maybe the key to having a good weekend. I have done a lot of testing and a lot of races at the track so I know the corners and what to do. Even though the racing will be completely new to me it’s important that I will be racing at a place I know well. And while I want to be competitive, my objectives will be different to my rivals: I’m an ambassador for Middle East motorsport and I’ll be doing all I can to further highlight Qatar’s position on the motorsport map.”
And what of the track? What’s it like for a driver?
“It’s a fast circuit and there are some parts that are not easy. You need a good line and if you are not in a good line in some places you miss the other corner. It will also be a night race and this will be maybe different for a lot of the drivers because I know it’s the first time the WTCC will race at night. Most of the drivers will enjoy but one thing that is different about the circuit is it does get dusty and this will not be easy for the drivers coming from outside. It does change the grip levels you have on the track.”
It’s been a great 2015 for you. How satisfied are you with what you have achieved?
“Absolutely! I am really very happy. To win Dakar, then the FIA Cross Country World Cup, the FIA Middle East Rally Championship again and the FIA WRC2 Championship it’s been a good year! I think I have achieved a lot this year and we also have the WTCC to enjoy in my own country. I am now looking for somebody to help me collect the trophies I will get at the FIA Prize-Giving Ceremony in Paris!”
You are universally known for your achievements in rallying but you’ve also excelled in skeet shooting. Are you still active in that sport and what are the chances of an appearance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio?
“Absolutely, absolutely! I am doing a lot of practice. I have an event in February 2016, which will be the qualifying event for Rio. My dream is to go for the Olympics because it will be my sixth time in the Olympics representing my country Qatar and after getting the bronze medal in London 2012 my target is to achieve a really high level in Rio.”
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