Turbulent Rally for Abu Dhabi Juniors Leads to a Strong Finish
Finland, 2nd August: The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team triumphed as it claimed first, third and ninth places in the testing Rally Finland. Mikko Hirvonen led the rally from stage two closely followed by fellow Finn and BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Jari-Matti Latvala. The two finished in a fantastic first and third place putting the team in a strong position to challenge Citroen for the Manufacturer's Championship as well as cement Hirvonen's place at the top of the Driver Championship, three points clear of Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.
Fellow team-mate and UAE star Khaled Al Qassimi continued on his push for Championship place contention finishing ninth - his best Finnish result to date. Meanwhile the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers had a tough time completing some of the earlier stages of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy international (FSTi), but managed to finish the rally in a rewarding fifth, seventh and eighth places.
"This is a great Abu Dhabi result in the rally's historic homeland," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which partners the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and is the World Rally Championship's Official Destination Partner.
Al Qassimi's ninth place is testimony to his consistent performance across all 23 stages across the tough Finnish Lake District. Whilst other WRC drivers met with problems on some of the fastest and most challenging stages in the series, Al Qassimi remained calm under pressure and finished all stages with the car intact and his position maintained. As others were forced into Super Rally on day one and day two of Rally Finland, he was able to move up from 12th to 10th until the penultimate stage. Starting first on stage 22 and 23, due to the top ten WRC cars beginning in reserve order, added extra pressure, but the Emirati ace held his nerve.
Al Qassimi demonstrated how he has improved behind the wheel of his Ford Focus since his last Rally Finland, two years ago. "I am really pleased. To finish in the top ten is a very special result in what is a very tough rally. It is a credit to the team that we were able to be in a top nine which included five Finns who are specialists on these roads," he said.
Hirvonen's home town win is a triumph for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team and sees it claim its fourth consecutive WRC win and Hirvonen push further ahead in the Driver Championship. Hirvonen began his campaign on his birthday last Friday and led the rally for the entire weekend winning most of the 23 stages. Teammate Latvala held fourth position for most of the weekend, contending for third in the final stages of day two. He went on to maintain his podium place until the very end. The combined points have closed the gap on the Manufacturer's Championship putting BP Ford Abu Dhabi just 14 points behind Citroen.
For Abu Dhabi's Junior drivers Finland was an equally tough testing ground. The three drivers gained invaluable experience on the fast and challenging stages, increasing their exposure to jumps and the famous Finnish gravel. Whilst all three encountered problems, with Majed Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri both retiring from earlier stages, they continued to push forward and achieved a worthy fifth, seventh and eighth positions, keeping them in the running for the FSTi.
"We have learnt so much over the last week and can use this experience to improve our driving and continue to challenge for the FSTi", commented Ahmed Al Mansoori. "I made some mistakes on the stages and even rolled once, but the lessons I have learnt are going to be fundamental to my development and we all look forward to using these learning's at our next rally in Spain."
Al Qassimi will next compete for BP Ford Abu Dhabi team at Rally Australia, September 4th -- 6th, while the Abu Dhabi Juniors will compete in the FSTi at Rally Spain, October 2nd- 4th.