Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah wins fourth Dakar Rally title | Sports News

The 51-year-old finished ahead of nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.

Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah won the grueling Dakar Rally for the fourth time after the race across the Saudi desert reached its climax on Friday.

The 51-year-old – a champion in 2011, 2015 and 2019 – took the overall titles ahead of nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb.

Al-Attiyah – also a bronze medalist in skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympics – led the race from start to finish.

Earlier on Friday, British motorcycle rider Sam Sunderland won his second Dakar Rally title.

The Dakar Rally started in 1978 as a race from Paris across the desert to the Senegalese capital but switched to South America in 2009 for security reasons.

One of motorsport’s most dangerous and brutal events, the rally moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020 and is now in its 44th edition.

Earlier this month, France considered canceling the Dakar Rally after an explosion badly injured a French driver.

French prosecutors said they have opened an investigation into a December 30 terrorist attack on a car in Jeddah, which left 61-year-old driver Philippe Butron needing surgery for a serious leg injury before returning to France.

“We thought maybe it would be better to abandon this sporting event… the question is still open,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television, adding that “there was a possible terrorist attack against Dakar.”

All five occupants of the car, including the driver, were French.

One of the passengers, driver Thierry Richard, told AFP he had no doubts that the car had been deliberately targeted.

“It was an attack, they blew us up,” he said, adding that the incident felt “like something out of a theater of war.”

Richard said the explosion lifted the car off the ground and immediately caught fire.

“We are not stupid,” he said, “we know what it feels like to explode.”

France warned its citizens in Saudi Arabia to exercise “the utmost vigilance – security risks” in the wake of the explosion.

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