AL QASSIMI'S RETURN TO SPUR BP-FORD ABU DHABI'S RESURGENCE IN FINLAND Full Strength Outfit Competing To Mark Abu Dhabi's 3rd WRC Anniversary Jyvaskyla, Finland. 26 July 2010: Emirati ace, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, makes his competitive return...
AL QASSIMI'S RETURN TO SPUR BP-FORD ABU DHABI'S RESURGENCE IN FINLAND
Full Strength Outfit Competing To Mark Abu Dhabi's 3rd WRC Anniversary
Jyvaskyla, Finland. 26 July 2010: Emirati ace, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, makes his competitive return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend, as he looks to inspire teammates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, into getting their 2010 campaign back on track at the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the sport's spiritual home.
Al Qassimi's participation ensures the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will be at full strength in Finland, the eighth round of the 13-event series, as it looks to close the gap on arch-rivals Citroen, which leads the Manufacturers Championship by 47 points.
The timing could not be more fitting for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit, as the emirate celebrates its 3rd anniversary in the sport this weekend.
And Abu Dhabi's Flying Finn, Hirvonen, who smashed last year's event to clinch his first win on home soil, is keen to recreate his good Scandinavian form. He knows a win at the series' fastest round, affectionately known as the Jyvaskyla Grand Prix due to its high speeds, would be the icing on the cake.
"I'm looking forward to defending last year's victory because I want to keep the title in Finland. Defending the title on your home rally definitely brings more excitement in the run-up to the event" said Hirvonen, who turns 30 on Saturday.
Abu Dhabi's Al Qassimi is also relishing his return to the sport's pinnacle this weekend. Rally Finland has undergone a complete overhaul in the last 12 months, with organisers packing the 310.05kms of action into just two days -- making it one of the shortest and fastest events in WRC history.
And Al Qassimi, who also marks his third competitive season in the WRC this weekend, knows that with close to 30 hours of driving time in just two days, concentration is going to be critical.
"Finland is an amazing rally and a challenge for every professional driver. I feel very confident in my driving, so hopefully I will be able to grab some more championship points. This event is really fast, and there is no room for error, so it could be one of the toughest races we have ever done," said Al Qassimi, known as 'King of the Jumps' by his army of fans for his record-breaking attempts mid-competition.
The weekend also sees the return of Team Abu Dhabi's Junior Drivers - Majed Al Shamsi, Bader Al Jabri and Sultan Al Amri -- who are back in action for the upcoming 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi). The young trio are currently riding high after their dramatic performances at both Rally de Portugal and, most recently, Italy's Moscato Rally, where they notched up a 1,2,3 finish in their class.
Leading the team is FSTi series contender, Al Shamsi. The Emirati hopeful clocked two first place finishes in Portugal and Italy, which has gone a long way to confirming him as a solid candidate for an end-of-season podium finish. Currently 4th in the series with 26 points, Rally Finland could be a watershed in the aspiring champion's promising career.
With hundreds of thousands of fans expected to line Jyvaskyla's country roads, Rally Finland is unlikely to disappoint. The event is famous for its inclusion of world-class high-speed runs, along tree-lined tracks, peppered with fast flying 'jumps' that demand absolute commitment. The 2005 race still holds the record for the fastest-ever run, with average speeds of 122.68kph.
In the last 36 months since signing the historic marquee partnership with BP-Ford, Abu Dhabi, led by ADTA, has also competed across a wealth of racing disciplines, such as the Middle East Rally Championship, Red Bull Air Race, Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup, European Radical Masters and the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series 2010.
"To see how far we have come in a relatively short time speaks volumes about our commitment to motorsport, both domestically and internationally. What is increasingly encouraging is the development of our grass-roots programmes, which have seen more young Emiratis become involved in the sport. I firmly believe that the Junior Drivers this weekend will live up to that promise, and will continue to serve as an inspiration to others," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA.
The Rally Finland action gets underway on Thursday 29th July with an opening Super Special Stage in Jyvaskyla.