It is with regret that Nasser Al-Attiyah will not start the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship at Rally Sweden this week. Falling ill over the weekend, the Qatari was unable to attend his scheduled pre-event tests and will thus skip the event as he concentrates on making a full recovery in time for his next motorsport commitment.
Standing in for the Qatari is Britain’s Matthew Wilson who will take to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC alongside Al-Attiyah’s regular co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini. Wilson last joined the WRC field at his home event when he contested Wales Rally GB in 2012. The Briton also has good knowledge of the Swedish round having contested the snow-covered stages on six previous occasions – scoring his best result of seventh in 2010, one place ahead of snow-expert Mads Østberg.
With a broken ankle forcing him to forfeit last year’s event, Wilson is thrilled to have the opportunity to tackle the snow and ice once again. Due to make a full recovery, Al-Attiyah will be back behind the wheel of his Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC at Rally Mexico next month.
Nasser Al-Attiyah said: “I am extremely disappointed not to be travelling to Sweden with the team this week, but it is important that I concentrate on making a full recovery for my next event. I know Matthew [Wilson] well, and know that he will do a good job for the team. I’ll be following all the crews’ progress from home, and will keep my fingers crossed for a good result. Each Qatar [liveried] Fiesta is capable of a strong result, I only wish I could be there to celebrate with everyone!”
Matthew Wilson said: “After so much disappointment last season, it is an absolutely fantastic feeling to know that I will be back behind the wheel of a World Rally Car this week. It all came as a bit of a shock really – I found out I would be competing last night [Sunday] and flew to Sweden yesterday! The recce starts today, and I’m confident that Gio [Bernacchini] and I will work well together. It’s always tricky adapting to a new co-driver, but he is amongst one of the best in the business. I need to say a big thank-you to Nasser [Al-Attiyah] for this opportunity, and the entire team wish him a speedy recovery. It won’t feel quite right without him in the service park this weekend and we are all looking forward to his return for [Rally] Mexico.”