AL QASSIMI DRIVES TOWARDS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS Lakeside drama for the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers as their experience is pushed to the limits Finland, 1st August (after Stage 17), The glorious sunshine earlier in the week disappeared for...
AL QASSIMI DRIVES TOWARDS CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
Lakeside drama for the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers as their experience is pushed to the limits
Finland, 1st August (after Stage 17), The glorious sunshine earlier in the week disappeared for murkier conditions on day two of Rally Finland. The overnight rain meant the drivers started the day on a wet and puddle strewn stage 11, but so far the conditions have not altered the performance of all three BP Ford Abu Dhabi team drivers. Khaled Al Qassimi and his co-driver Michael Orr started the day in twelfth place after a consistent performance on Friday and the damp gravel has enabled them to gain some speed and move up to eleventh place after Stage 17. Finnish drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala hold first and third places, so should go into the final day in a strong position to contest the podium on home soil.
The fast and challenging Finnish stages might not have proved a problem for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team, but have certainly created excitement and place movement elsewhere in the Championship. The large jumps on course have been the cause of problems for a number of the WRC drivers causing mistakes and stage times to increase allowing the fight for Championship points to be thrown wide open. As Al Qassimi continues to push his Ford Focus through the lake district of Finland, his solid times and unfaltering consistency is moving him up into contention.
"I am pleased with how I performed yesterday and have gained the extra confidence to push harder during today's stages, "commented Al Qassimi. "Our results during day one mean I can push myself to lift my pace. So far we have been faster in the stages than we were last year, and I definitely have more to give."
Elsewhere in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International (FSTi) drama unfolded during the early stages of the day as all three of the Abu Dhabi Junior drivers met with difficulties on the testing Finnish course. Ahmed Al Mansoori began the day in fifth position, closely contesting his rivals for a podium position. However, his experience was tested to the limit on the fast conditions and he made a mistake during stage 13 that resulted in the Ford Fiesta rolling after a tight corner. Luckily neither occupant was harmed, but the dramatic roll lost Al Mansoori valuable time and has caused some damage to his brakes. After Stage 16 the Abu Dhabi Junior still holds fifth position and will continue to drive with caution for the remaining stages to maintain his fight for points in Rally Finland.
Also to come up against the elements were Bader Al Jabri during stage 12 and Majed Al Shamsi in stage 16. Al Jabri came into stage 12 in sixth position, but hit a rock that caused considerable damage to his Ford Fiesta forcing him to retire for the day. Al Shamsi had learnt from the previous day's experience and was inching forward in the times, but a mistake late in stage 16 cost him dearly and unfortunately he was also forced to retire for the day. Both will start tomorrow with time penalties and continue to contest for points under the 'Super Rally' rules.
Excitement is also building as BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen extended his lead. Incredibly Hirvonen has won all but one of the stages so far today and extended his lead from closet rival Sebastian Loeb to 32.4 seconds. Two further stages will take place late on Saturday afternoon, with four more scheduled for Sunday before the drama of an epic Rally Finland concludes.