Are you sitting down? If you’re not, it might be wise. Nasser Al-Attiyah’s not leading a rally in the Middle East.
Heading directly to Oman from the top step of the Dakar podium in Saudi Arabia, the expectation was that the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver would pick up where he left off in Muscat last season: leading and winning.
That’s not unreasonable. Let’s face it, Nasser doesn’t really do losing. In the last 20 years, he’s won 18 Middle East Rally Championship titles. And 72.6% of the MERC rounds he’s started have ended in victory. That’s 85 wins from 117 events.
Sadly for one of the sport’s nicest guys, a rare mistake on Thursday’s Oman International Rally-opening superspecial ended with a damaged radiator on his newly liveried Polo.
Al-Attiyah starts the event proper under superally regulations, with 10 minutes added to his total. He’s running 13th and 12m51.4s behind Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thefiri (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X).
With 12 stages and 142 competitive miles still to run, there’s plenty of time for an inspired run back up the leaderboard.
How far will he climb? Is a win out of the question? Stay tuned to DirtFish and eWRC-results.com and we’ll keep you posted.