AL QASSIMI EMERGES VICTORIOUS IN THREE-WAY TUSSLE FOR TOP TEN PORTUGUESE FINISH Algarve, Portugal. 30 May 2010: After his most impressive FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) performance of the year, BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi ...
AL QASSIMI EMERGES VICTORIOUS IN THREE-WAY TUSSLE FOR TOP TEN PORTUGUESE FINISH
Algarve, Portugal. 30 May 2010: After his most impressive FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) performance of the year, BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi finished in the top ten to score Championship points at Rally de Portugal as the weekend's action came to a close amid the roaring crowds of the Algarve Stadium.
The 2004 Middle East Rally Champion began the final day holding joint 10th place with his arch rival Federico Villagra, and the duel for the top ten spot kicked off in style during the opening 21.28km stage. Al Qassimi launched the attack to take back a second on his rival, only to lose two seconds when taking a hairpin bend too wide in Loule stage.
As the battle continued Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) backed Al Qassimi and co-driver Michael Orr relentlessly pushed their Ford Focus harder, notching up some of their fastest times of the rally and exposing an unexpected opportunity to catch former Formula OneTM World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen.
Fans watched with nervous anticipation as the trio battled it out for eighth place. Split times were unbelievably close and the final result came down to the wire on the tarmac surface of the Super Special Stage. Al Qassimi's determination paid off. After a day of tense excitement fans were rewarded when the Abu Dhabi star took ninth place and his first Championship points of the season.
"Villagra's split times were coming through to us in the car, so we were able to see how hard we had to push," commented Al Qassimi. "It was a great rivalry, and had the added benefit of taking quite a lot of time out of Raikkonen. This has been a tough rally, but the drama is why it remains one of my favourites."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen sat just outside the podium positions for the majority of the competition, with the high temperatures and rock-laden roads subduing their normal attacking nature. After the final four demanding stages in the Algarve hills today, Hirvonen was able to apply some pressure to his closet competition, Petter Solberg, edging closer to his goal.
The final stage produced some additional drama when Solberg became stuck on a dividing wall of the track, enabling the Finns to leap ahead and eventually take fourth place.
"I tried a different approach this weekend. I was less aggressive, letting my driving flow rather than pushing too much. I thought my driving was good and the car handled well, but the times weren't fast enough." Commented Hirvonen.
It was a strong weekend across the board for all the Abu Dhabi-backed teams and drivers with the Abu Dhabi junior drivers also producing competitive and mature performances in the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi).
Commenting on the successful weekend for the ADTA's international rally programme Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA said: "To have a full Team Abu Dhabi contingent competing side-by-side in the FSTi and WRC at Rally de Portugal is a real testament to how far our programme has progressed over the last three years. The conditions in the Algarve have proved incredibly tough for all involved, however both the junior driver development team and the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team have learnt a considerable amount about competing in these conditions, and we look forward to applying these skills in the next round."