[Nicosia, Sept. 22, 2021] - Nasser Al Attiyah considers himself a Cypriot! Not only because he is the Cyprus Rally record holder, with seven wins in his trophy cabinet, or because he claimed another eight first places on the island, seven at the Troodos Rally and one at the Paphos International Rally. But because he has turned the island into his literal second home! A lover of Cyprus, the Qatari recently purchased a house in Nicosia, in which he welcomed us and spoke about nearly everything.
- Why did you choose Cyprus as your second home?
I love Cyprus! It's a beautiful place, something I realized from the first time I came here, back in 1995 for a skeet shooting competition. I have many friends here. It is a country that I really like.
- Will you spend more time in Cyprus in the coming years?
This year I spent several days here. Next year I’m planning on staying even longer because we are planning to also compete in the Pancyprian Rally Championship. Cyprus is also the best place to prepare for the skeet shooting event on the road to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. It is the ideal place for an athlete.
- You are 51 years old. You aren’t planning to retire any time soon, correct?
Not at all. I feel strong and I can do both sports (shooting and rally).
- With 15 victories in Cyprus and 17 titles in the Middle East Rally Championship, what still motivates you?
Winning the Cyprus Rally is always a motivation as it is one of the best rallies in the world. The Cypriots consider me as their driver and I am proud to run in this event.
"I want more championships"
Al Attiyah's 17 Middle East titles are a record for the event, as the legendary Mohammed bin Sulayem stopped at 14. "I want to win more championships. "From one point on, these are just numbers," he explains.
"Sometimes you have to drive smart"
- After many years on mixed surface, this year’s Cyprus Rally is 100% a gravel event. Do you prefer it?
Cyprus Rally is special. It is nice sometimes to have mixed surface. This year, which is only gravel, I do not think it will be a problem for the crews.
- How do you expect this year's rally?
I believe there will be intense competition. I can see 3-4 very good Cypriot drivers who always want to win. This year I think it will be more interesting, I see 2-3 drivers fighting for the victory. But I am here, I’m strong, I have a lot of experience and I will try to win. We will see who will succeed.
- Do you prefer a comfortable race like last year or a close battle?
No, I prefer to fight to the end, but sometimes you have to be smart. When you push constantly, you will have a problem somewhere. Sometimes you have to manage it, not to push from the beginning. The Cyprus Rally is one of the hardest rallies in the world, you need the whole package to win here. You have to move smart.
- Are you sad you haven’t had the opportunity to compete in the WRC with a team and fight for the championship?
When I started in 1990 and until 1994-95 my plan was to go to the WRC. Then I stopped completely and devoted myself to shooting. I came back in 2003. It was not easy. I was already 33. However, I ran in WRC2, won it twice in 2015 and 2016 and took 4th place overall in the Acropolis Rally and in Portugal. I believe that when one wants to become a world champion you need to chase it from the beginning and one day you will succeed.