Making his WRC comeback after an enforced three-month absence related to his involvement in the London Olympic Games, Nasser Al-Attiyah will be back alongside his co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini in his Qatar World Rally Team Citroën DS3 WRC at Rallye Deutschland. Constantly improving and confident as they head into a rally with which they are already familiar, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul (Citroën Junior World Rally Team) will be aiming to record their best result so far in the World Championship.
Three weeks after Finland, the setting will be radically different in Germany for the ninth round of the World Rally Championship. Held on roads around Trier, this will be as close as it gets to a home rally for Thierry Neuville. Originally from Saint-Vith, located in the heart of the small German-speaking part of Belgium, the Citroën Junior World Rally Team driver will need to travel less than a hundred kilometres to reach Trier!
Currently lying eighth in the World Championship standings, with two fifth places in Argentina and New Zealand as his best results, Thierry has surprised many WRC observers by the ease with which he has adapted to the championship. After being in contention for a top 5 place in Finland for long periods – despite it being his first experience at the rally – he is determined to take advantage of his knowledge of the German roads to reach new heights.
“I don’t have a huge amount of experience at this event, as I have only competed here once before, in 2010 in a C2 Super 1600. And even then, I retired”, played down Thierry. “But that is already much more than the last few rallies where everything was totally new for me. What’s important is that the road surfaces in Germany are much more familiar to me. I don’t think I can be categorised as a ‘gravel’ or ‘tarmac’ driver, but I think I won’t have any difficulty getting my bearings.”
“My aim will be complete the rally without making any fatal errors, like I did in New Zealand for example. If I can manage that, I think I can challenge for a place in the top 5 and maybe even a spot on the podium,” warned Thierry.
The goals will be somewhat different for Nasser Al-Attiyah, who will be returning to the WRC after being away from the action since 27 May, after the end of the Acropolis Rally. “The last few months have been incredible. I prepared very seriously for the Olympic Games and I achieved my dream in winning a bronze medal,” summarised the Qatari, who finished third in the Skeet competition (clay pigeon shooting). “I then stayed in London to enjoy the Games and soak up the fantastic atmosphere. I am very determined to try and win the gold medal in Rio in four years time! But before that, I’m very pleased to return to rallying. I couldn’t choose between my two passions. I realise just how lucky I am to be able to compete in both sports.”
For the time being, Nasser’s best result is the fourth place he recorded in Portugal. He knows that, realistically, he’s unlikely to pick up a ‘medal’ in Germany: “Gravel is the surface on which I am most at ease. This will be my first ever tarmac rally in a WRC and I still need to do a lot more work to make progress. I have only raced here once before, last year. I’ll be mainly looking to get back into the swing of things and listen to the advice from the team, who have a huge amount of experience at this rally.”