The rally’s transfer to Saudi Arabia in 2020 sent Al-Attiyah, 50, back to the desert environment of the Gulf he knew best.
Qatari Dakar rally driver Nasser Al-Attiyah is preparing for the second edition of the race in Saudi Arabia with a strict training regimen to develop muscles suitable for coronavirus restrictions.
Held in Africa between 1979 and 2007, the world’s most famous rally moved to the mountainous terrain of South America between 2009 and 2019.
Al-Attiyah, 50, won the reincarnated race in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The rally’s move to Saudi Arabia in 2020 sent Al-Attiyah back to the desert environment of the Gulf that he knew best, having been born in Doha, the Qatari capital.
“I adopted a different physical program that focused on building muscle,” he told AFP news agency ahead of the competition which starts on Saturday and lasts until January 16.
With his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel: “We have trained according to the countries that hold Dakar,” he declared.
Due to lockdown rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the champion pilot has been forced to adapt his preparation
“I have a simulator at home and a gym that keeps me in the rally mood,” Al-Attiyah said.
At the wheel of his Toyota, Al-Attiyah came second in Dakar 2020, the first edition of the race in the Arabian Peninsula, behind Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Mini) and ahead of French Stéphane Peterhansel (Mini).
Al-Attiyah is a powerful symbol of the rise in power of Qatar, the small emirate of the Gulf which in a few decades has transformed into a sporting power.
Before training at the sprawling Aspire sports academy in Doha, Al-Attiyah struggled as a youth to finance his dream of becoming a winning racing driver.
“The program ranged from cycling 100 to 150 kilometers (62 to 94 miles) per day, running and other exercises,” he said.
Nicknamed “Superman” by his compatriots for his ability to “dance on the sand dunes”, he was 16-time Middle Eastern champion, won 75 regional competitions, three Dakar editions and won the Cup four times. world of off-road rallies.
Despite his success behind the wheel, he also turned to Olympic skeet shooting.
Al-Attiyah is now preparing for the virus-delayed 2021 Olympics after winning fourth place at the 2004 Athens Games and bronze in London 2012.