August 15, 2015 – Nasser Al-Attiyah is without a doubt one of the most talented drivers in Middle East history, but he’s also backed by a very strong team, which is managed by Britain’s Ken Skidmore.
Skidmore and Al-Attiyah first met in January 2003 at Prodrive’s headquarters in England, where the latter was preparing a Subaru S7 WRC car to drive at the Qatar round of the 2003 Middle East Rally Championship – an event he eventually won.
“Our introduction to each other was from Jean Pierre Nasrallah, with whom I have worked before during the 2001 and 2002 editions of Rally of Lebanon, which we also won!” said Skidmore in an interview with Biser3a.com.
Working as a team manager for Nasser Al-Attiyah, naturally, has its challenges, the biggest of which according to Skidmore, are the crazy schedules Al-Attiyah sets for himself: trying to arrange tests, events and the correct build up to a rally, and fitting this in with all the other commitments.
However, Skidmore’s hard work has repeatedly paid off and some of his most memorable rewards include victories in the Spanish round of the 2014 Word Rally Championship, Italian round of the 2009 WRC and the 2005 Abu Dhabi Rally.
“Spain WRC 2014 was a great victory at WRC2 level, especially as 2 days of Spain are on tarmac; Sardinia 2009, beating a Skoda S2000 with a Group N Subaru by 4 seconds, and of course no one will forget Nasser’s last-stage win in Abu Dhabi in 2005, a huge effort on the last stage saw Nasser take the win from Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.”
Skidmore confirmed that Al-Attiyah will be using the Skoda Fabia R5 in Rally of Lebanon, instead of the Ford Fiesta RRC that he drove to second place overall in the 2013 event.
“We decided in Poland, when we saw the pace of the Skoda R5, that it was definitely worth considering, and given the current logistical problems foreign competitors face in getting equipment to Lebanon, we thought that using the Skoda R5 was a viable option, this way we can send our normal Fiesta RRC car directly to Cyprus from the UK.” he said.
He added: “At the moment, it seems that the Skoda R5 is quite fast, maybe faster than the Fiesta R5 on tarmac; I guess we will find out in Germany and Lebanon whether it was the correct decision.”
A victory for Al-Attiyah in Lebanon is possible, believes Skidmore, but he’s well aware of the challenge they’re facing in the form of 10-time Lebanese Rally Champion Roger Feghali who won the event a record 11 times.
“Every year that Nasser competes in Lebanon, he has a chance of winning; for sure Roger is just so tough to beat, he is hugely talented and very determined and very smart, so it’s never going to be easy, but let’s hope that it’s a great race again in Lebanon; I am sure it will be. Roger knows the roads very well, but Nasser has a lot more seat time and is competing all the time, so it will be a great fight.”
Skidmore also believes that running the Skoda Fabia R5 in the German round of the WRC (Aug 20 – Aug 23) should help Al-Attiyah’s chances in Rally of Lebanon, as it means the 10-time Middle East Rally Champion would be used to the car on tarmac before arriving to Lebanon.
As for Khalifa Al-Attiyah, Nasser’s younger brother, a 2015 Rally of Lebanon appearance onboard his Ford Fiesta RRC looks unlikely.
“I don’t think Khalifa will compete in Rally of Lebanon; he does not have the budget for the event.” confirmed Skidmore.
Khalifa Al-Attiyah competed in the 2014 edition of the event, but he was forced to throw in the towel early after his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X caught fire.