AL QASSIMI TAKES BACK 28 PLACES IN RALLY SPAIN Abu Dhabi Juniors Develop their Skills on the Asphalt SPAIN, 4 October, 2009: World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi dismissed his early retirement on Day One at Rally ...
AL QASSIMI TAKES BACK 28 PLACES IN RALLY SPAIN
Abu Dhabi Juniors Develop their Skills on the Asphalt
SPAIN, 4 October, 2009: World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi dismissed his early retirement on Day One at Rally de Espana, to come back fighting across the last two days, climbing a considerable gap of 28 places and finishing in 14th position. Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Juniors made the most of their first asphalt rally experience in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International (FSTi), getting to grips with the unfamiliar terrain and developing their skills.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Al Qassimi was locked in a five-way time battle with fellow WRC contenders for all six stages in the final day of Rally de Espana. The group of championship contenders were separated by mere seconds whilst they competed against each other for eighth position in all of the stages. The emirati ace, who is having his best ever WRC season, proved that he can hold his own against his rivals, tracking some of his fastest asphalt times. His consistent and smooth performances, since an engine fire on Day One pushed him back to 42nd position, has enabled him to take back a staggering 28 places, finishing in a credible 14th place.
"Being from the Middle East I am used to sand and gravel terrains, driving on tarmac always requires more concentration as I am not so familiar with the surface," said Al Qassimi. "I am really happy with how I performed in the last two days. I was enjoying the stages, and felt that my driving was smooth, and as a result we were clocking faster times".
Elsewhere, the Abu Dhabi Junior drivers made the most of their first rally on asphalt, getting to grips with the hair pin bends and the unexpected twists. Bader Al Jabri was leading the Abu Dhabi team and contending closely with FSTi leader Patrick Anglade. Al Jabri was proving a worthy adversary of the German tarmac expert, gradually improving as the weekend progressed, until a broken drive shaft forced him to retire in stage 13 this morning.
"Bader has had an excellent rally in Spain," commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the organisation behind the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development programme. "His tarmac debut has gone really well, and I am really impressed with how he, and the rest of the Abu Dhabi Juniors, held their own against experienced asphalt drivers. They have clearly progressed throughout the course of the weekend and now we can look to use this experience at Rally GB".
The Abu Dhabi Juniors Ahmed Al Mansoori and Majed Al Shamsi finished in fifth and seventh after a studious weekend. Team Abu Dhabi will now head to Rally GB at the end of the month with a growing confidence and appetite for more experiences.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala had a thrilling, but difficult rally, contending on their least favorite surface. Hirvonen fought valiantly against both team Citroen drivers, recording some rapid stage times. However, it wasn't enough to take the lead, and for the first time in five rallies the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team had to settle with just a third position on the podium. The final results mean that Hirvonen still holds the Driver Championship lead by only one point, but Citroen have now taken the manufacturers' title by an unbeatable 21 point gap. With only Rally GB, 23- 25 October, till the WRC climax it is going to be a rollercoaster to the end.