(MENAFN - The Peninsula) By Rizwan Rehmat I The Peninsula
Three-time Dakar Rally winner and rallying icon Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah is pleased he picked up maximum points from the first round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally on Tuesday.
With assistance from long-time co-driver Matthieu Baumel, Al Attiyah roared to his sixth win at the Manateq Qatar Cross-Country Rally (QCCR) after a gruelling five-day battle.
'It was very important to win here since there are only five legs. Every race is important. So whoever wins as many races as possible can be the world champion, Al Attiyah said of the 2019 calendar.
The rally teams will head to Abu Dhabi for the second leg (March 30-April 4), followed by races in Turkmenistan (May 5-11), Kazakhstan (May 26-June 1) and Morocco (October 4-8).
Al Attiyah said the terrain in Qatar remained the biggest challenge for him and Baumel.
'It wasn't difficult to win but it was a difficult terrain. I have to say it is the same terrain I have raced on. The good thing was that I remained in the lead from the beginning of the rally, Al Attiyah said.
'I know it's been a long drill but I am okay. I am fit. I am happy with the result here, he added.
When asked about travelling to Abu Dhabi, Al Attiyah said: 'I am waiting for the signal from QMMF before I go to Abu Dhabi.
Al Attiyah said starting 2019 with two major wins brought immense delight in his camp.
'Last year we were developing the car a lot but it was a clean performance this year. We won the Dakar Rally and now the Qatar Cross-Country Rally. It has been great, Al Attiyah said.
'I would like to thank the organisers for putting together a great event. Thanks go to the sponsors also and the participants who came to Qatar. I give my thanks to God for this honour, he said with his trademark smile in place.
'Overall it was a great week for us. It is a nice feeling. The next race is in Abu Dhabi. It is still a long way for us. We need to be focused, he warned.
French co-driver Baumel said: 'I would like to thank QMMF for the organisation. I would also say the volunteers were very good all the way.
He added: 'I would say winning here is always a good feeling. This was a good result but winning for the seventh time feels great. Everyday we struggled but everyday we did really well. We are ready to fight with our rivals.