Nasser Al-Attiyah has a problem.
His hopes of retaining his Dakar crown this year had already been dashed by damage from a heavy landing on stage six, the brand-new two-day stage format with an overnight camping section midway through. He then retired on stage eight with an engine problem and came back the next day using a ‘joker’.
But when his rear left suspension arm had decided it had had enough only a few miles into Tuesday’s stage nine, the driver had also had enough.
Al-Attiyah still has the World Rally-Raid Championship title to contend for. He had one joker left; he could still have returned to the stages on Wednesday and picked up some points for the title fight.
But he had no intertest in pressing on. He was sick of the sight of his Prodrive Hunter.
When asked if he’d use his second joker, he crossed his arms and laughed at the prospect.
“Sorry, I don’t want to jump back into this car,” he said, as he shook his head.
“This year on Dakar, I learned something in my life. It will never happen again.”
What ‘it’ is, that’s not precisely clear. But what is clear is what he did next: he returned to the bivouac, met with the Prodrive team running his car, then went home. No second restart.
It’s a worrying turn of events for both team and driver: Al-Attiyah is not only scheduled to drive the Hunter for the rest of the W2RC season but is also one of three factory Dacia drivers signed for the 2025 season, alongside Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez, which will also be built by Prodrive.
Al-Attiyah has lost his patience with a car he’s now stuck with for the rest of 2024, and whatever is built to replace it from 2025. But Prodrive is convinced that, in the long term, they’ll bring him back around.
“I’m sure that’s the initial reaction he has now but I think we need to give it some time and sit down,” Gus Beteli, Prodrive’s Head of Performance and team principal of the Nasser Racing outfit which Al-Attiyah’s entry runs under, told DirtFish.
“For sure we are as disappointed as he is to have the issues in the last couple of days, so I fully understand where he’s coming from.”
Beteli and his colleagues have already sat down with Al-Attiyah following his retirement from the rally: “We had a meeting before he left. It was OK; we explained the issues and how we’re going to fix them going forwards.”