How Sir Jackie Stewart helped shape a five-time Dakar winner

The F1 legend's prowess as a clay pigeon shooter has served as an inspiration for Nasser Al-Attiyah

Nasser Al-Attiyah & Mathieu Baumel

Nasser Al-Attiyah put the book down, he knew what he had to do. He had to race. Nineteen Middle East Rally Championship titles and five Dakar wins, the Qatari is clear where the influence came from.

Step forward triple Formula 1 World Champion, Sir Jackie Stewart.

When the Prodrive Hunter driver starts the Dakar prologue stage on Friday, he’ll do so with the words of JYS still very much in his mind.

Back at the top the millennium, clay pigeon shooting was the sport dominating Al-Attiyah’s life. He’d represented his country at two Olympics already and was ready for more success with the gun. It was around that time that he considered motorsport, and acted on Stewart’s words.

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“I read Sir Jackie’s book [Winning is not enough],” Al-Attiyah said. “And this was one of the reasons I started racing.”

As well as chasing a third straight Dakar win (and sixth in his career) this month, Al-Attiyah will contest his seventh summer Olympics in Paris this year.

“I’m so happy to keep going in clay pigeon shooting,” he said. “I remember my first Olympic Games and now I’m going to my seventh with Qatar. My father told me two sports would be good for my development and the shooting definitely does help with the mental approach and obviously for the eyes. It’s a sport which gives me confidence to bring to rallying and it helps always keep me calm – but it’s not easy and you have to work very hard at both sports.

“This is what I was also learning from Sir Jackie’s book.”

JYS muggy
There is no doubt that none of this would’ve been possible if I had not been an international shooter. Sir Jackie Stewart

Stewart won his first clay pigeon shooting competition aged 13 and went on to represent Scotland and Britain in European events.

Talking in his book, Stewart is clear on the influence his early sporting life had on his racing career.

The Scot said: “Looking back now I can see that the five years spent competing at the highest level of clay pigeon shooting proved an ideal preparation for my career as a motor racing driver. In so many ways, big and small, I gathered a quantity and quality of experience and knowledge that simply could never have been made available to me at any college or educational institution.

“The University of Shooting served me well. It taught me how to deal with the pressure of club, national and international competition and how to compete overseas… it made me aware of more personal, but no less valuable, lessons such as that I invariably performed best when I was hungry; so I didn’t eat before any shooting competition and, in the years that followed, I never ate before a Grand Prix.

Jackie Stewart, Matra MS80, Silverstone, 1969 British Grand Prix.

“I can say with certainty that the University of Shooting proved so beneficial to me because the records show how quickly I was able to settle as a Formula 1 racing driver… pole position in the first Formula 1 race, sixth in the first Grand Prix, victory in fifth race (the non-championship Daily Express International Trophy at Silverstone), victory at the Italian Grand Prix in my eighth Grand Prix, third in the drivers’ world championship in that first season.

“There is no doubt that none of this would’ve been possible if I had not been an international shooter.”

It’s all that and more that Al-Attiyah takes with him on the two-week journey (including 3,107 competitive miles in 13 days) from AlUla to Yanbu.

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