Nasser Al-Attiyah is ready to turn his back on a long-term deal with Volkswagen and intends to drive a Mini in next year's Dakar Rally and a Ford or Citroen in the World Rally Championship.
The Qatari, who won the Dakar with Volkswagen this year, had been expected to sign up to the German firm's WRC program until the end of 2013 at last weekend's Nurburgring 24-Hour race, which he won in a Scirocco. But now, it appears he may have driven a factory Volkswagen for the last time.
Al-Attiyah and VW Motorsport director Kris Nissan were unable to agree terms in Germany, after it became clear the former Production Car World Rally champion would not be given a Race Touareg to defend his South American title in 2012.
Al-Attiyah, 40, is now ready to return to the X-Raid team to drive a Mini.
"My sponsor Barwa made it clear that they wanted me to do Dakar," said Al-Attiyah, "and I want to do Dakar. Of course, I want to go back to defend my win, I love this rally and I was very surprised and shocked when I realized that Volkswagen changed its mind and would not be going to the rally. So I couldn't make the agreement."
After driving the class-winning VW at the Nurburgring, Al-Attiyah went to X-Raid's German base to look at the Mini: "I think I can win Dakar with this car," he said. "It's a good car and I know the team is good."
Al-Attiyah will meet with Barwa next week, when it is expected the deal will be agreed for the WRC.
"It will be for all of the WRC except Monte Carlo," said Al-Attiyah, "because this rally clashes with Dakar.
"I don't know the car, but I have good contact with Malcolm Wilson and my manager has good contact with Citroen. This is a good solution for me, it means I don't have to wait until 2013 to start driving the World Rally Car, I'm happy about this. Believe me, I'm happy. When I left from the race last weekend and there was no agreement, I waited, but I could have waited and waited, but I can't do that – I want to enjoy my time in Dakar and the world championship."
Al-Attiyah admitted the possible decision to snub VW might appear odd.
"If I were 20 years old then I would have signed the deal, but I'm not and, like I said, I want to enjoy my time – and the important thing is to keep my sponsor happy," he explained. "Barwa has been fantastic for me, supporting me for a long time in the Middle East and in WRC and I can't stop this deal."
Al-Attiyah's decision not to drive for Volkswagen will shock the sport, given his close ties with the manufacturer and the big-budget and long-term nature of the deal to prepare, build and run the Polo R WRC in the championship. VW is committed to WRC until the end of 2015.
Al-Attiyah had been expected to contest all remaining European WRC rounds in a Skoda Fabia S2000 run by VW, but that car has been scratched for Rally Finland. Al-Attiyah will return to his Fiesta-based Super 2000 World Rally Championship program later this year.