FINNISH FORAY IS BACKDROP FOR AL QASSIMI'S RETURN
Mentor inspires Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers in their Fiesta Sporting Trophy campaign
ABU DHABI, 28 June, 2009: Having finished in a career best of sixth place at the Acropolis Rally of Greece, Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi, the Abu Dhabi World Rally Championship (WRC) driver and member of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Rally Team, is going all out to replicate his achievement in Finland -- the legacy home of rallying. Al Qassimi's capacity to cope in the heat and terrain pressures of Greece propelled him into contention for valuable championship points. Missing Rally Poland last month means Al Qassimi needs solid determination and the backing of the many thousands of fanatical Finns and produce a repeat performance in the 1001 Lakes event.
The ninth WRC round is known for its huge crowds and electric atmosphere, with a Finnish victory being one of the championship's most highly regarded accolades. "Finland will be another great test. It's always an incredible experience with some extremely technical stages, and if we can do well it will really show the progress we are making," commented Al Qassimi. "After missing Rally Poland, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel to try to build on the points we won in Greece. We will try to rise to the occasion but always remembering that it is a three- day event and consistency will be key to success."
Also competing at Rally Finland will be the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers in the fourth stage of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy international (FSTi) which begins on Friday 31st July. Al Qassimi's presence this weekend will provide extra inspiration and motivation as the drivers attempt to emulate their Emirati mentor. The three drivers, Majed Al Shamsi, Ahmed Al Mansoori and Bader Al Jabri, have looked to Al Qassimi for direction since they joined the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme three years ago. The programme was set up to aid the development of future Emirati champions, and to eventually provide a successor to Khaled Al Qassimi. To date the three drivers have shown total dedication to this cause and the sport and currently hold second, third and fourth places in the FSTi.
Rally Poland proved to be a highly successful campaign for all three drivers and aspects of those stages are similar to the lakes and countryside that surrounds the Finnish Rally home of Jyvaskyla. As the competition heats up there is all to play for this weekend. "I was thrilled to finish in second position in Poland and only hope to be able to replicate or better that in Finland," commented Al Shamsi. "The added benefit for us this week is that we have Khaled to draw inspiration from, and we all hope to prove we have got what it takes to win the FSTi".
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team is also in a strong position, having won the last three consecutive rallies to push them into contention for both the WRC Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships. Al Qassimi's two Finnish team mates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala will be hoping to use the advantage of a home crowd to continue their push towards winning the WRC.
"The Finnish crowd will, I am sure, get right behind Khalid and the Junior Drivers as our partnership with their heroes Mikko and Jari-Matti is acknowledged and appreciated," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is a BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team sponsor, Official Destination partner of the World Rally Championship, and creator of the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme.