Look where, Nasser al-Attiyah, the desert prince current Dakar champion, is a bit Catalan: he loves the Pa Amb Tomàquet , temporarily resides in a farmhouse between Bages and Anoia, and has an assistant from Igualada, who is more than an assistant. Jordi Vidal –who is just 39 years old today– is the ambassador of the Qatari pilot in Spain. A curious friendship story.
It all started in 2014 at the Sardinia rally, a World Rally Championship event that Al-Attiyah contested in the WRC2 category. And there was Vidal.
About Al Attiyah
Nasser is a very kind and polite person, very affectionate and generous”
I used to take photos freelancing for agencies. I was very fond of rallies, I went with my father when I was little. I took a photo of Nasser and showed it to him. “I like! I give you my phone number and you send it to me”. And in every rally we met he sent her photos or wished her luck. From the first day he opened his box for me, he invited me to tea. We had good chemistry – recalls Vidal.
And that’s how they began to meet in rallies and become friends… until one day, at Baja Aragón 2017, the Qatari driver made him a proposal that he couldn’t refuse:
–He suggested that I go to the Dakar. I told him: “Of course, it’s my dream.” But I had no idea why. I didn’t care what he did. Nasser knew that I had a truck license because working in MotoGP I drove a trailer.
So Vidal’s first job on the Dakar, in the 2018 edition, was as a driver of Al-Attiyah’s assistance truck, an old manual 6×6, with which he gave mechanical coverage through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina; 9,000 km behind the Qatari driver.
“For me, who has followed rallies and the Dakar since I was a child, it is a dream to be Nasser’s assistant or manager.
“It went very well and Nasser was happy with my work,” he recalls.
He liked it so much that when he returned from the Dakar, Al-Attiyah proposed to work for him all year as an assistant. That meant spending all day dancing, going to the World Cup cross country the WRC2 rally championship and all the races he did.
Vidal accepted and since 2019 he has worked as the Qatari’s assistant-secretary, who has entrusted him with driving his caravan in the Dakar – this will be his fifth time – and has entrusted him with the management of the Nasser Camp, the venue with three circuits of land that Al-Attiyah has set up on his 200-hectare farm that he bought in Castellfollit del Boix (Bages).
In Nasser’s landing in this 18th century farmhouse in Obaga de Cal Ponç, in the Gravulosa valley, near Igualada, Vidal was largely to blame, as the Qatari explained to this newspaper.
I love this place, it allows me to relax. I discovered it through Jordi. He was looking for a nice place in Spain and he showed me this house and this farm. It has the best location, near Barcelona, it’s very quiet, here I get in shape, friends come to test cars, and also the town’s residents, and when I can I go to see Barça; Xavi is a good friend from when he played Al Sadd (a club owned by the Nasser family).
One of the considerations that Vidal has received for managing the Nasser Camp –with an occupation of 90-100 days a year, between tests, company events and presentations–, is being able to live in the farmhouse with his wife, Núria, and his daughter, Clàudia, with the company of Dakar, a cute two-year-old German shepherd husky mix that they gave to Al-Attiyah.
–I feel well paid, a fair salary for what I do. And with a house paid for, without rent, neither water nor electricity, says Vidal.
In addition, well paid, well treated and well considered, being the right hand of Al-Attiyah.
–Nasser is a very kind and educated person, very affectionate and generous. From the beginning, I knew him as a friend. The first day I started working for him he told me he never wanted me to call him boss. “We are friends”, he told me. For me, who has followed rallies and the Dakar since I was little, it is a dream to be his assistant or his manager. He is at the top, he wins all the championships (in 2022 he won the Dakar for the fourth time, world rally-raid champion and Extreme E). It’s very special, really.
And, by the way, Jordi enjoys some of the privileges of being next to a member of the Qatari royal family – he is the emir’s first cousin, for sharing a wet nurse.
“At first it shocked me. When you go with him, it’s not that they treat him better, but you do things that I couldn’t do: you go to good restaurants, luxury hotels, you travel first class, you go to VIP places… –explains Vidal. Although, for him, the best thing was to say hello to Xavi and for him to give him a shirt with his name on it.
In the suitcase
“One special thing that I always take with me is my pillow. I would be able to sleep on the parquet or on a stone, but I am special for my neck. We travel all year round and find all kinds of cushions, but nothing quite like their own. I also take music, my ipad and my headphones. I like listening to podcasts on shows like Crims or economics.”