MERC: Bahrain: Al-Qassimi bids to add to championship points

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship Bahrain International Rally 2002 , round 2 of 7 Al-Qassimi Bids To Add To Championship Points' Haul Defending FIA Middle East Group N rally champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, from Sharjah, is bidding...

2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Bahrain International Rally 2002 , round 2 of 7

Al-Qassimi Bids To Add To Championship Points' Haul

Defending FIA Middle East Group N rally champion Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi, from Sharjah, is bidding to further his chances of taking a maiden outright championship victory in his new car, when he tackles the Bahrain International Rally .

Sheikh Abdullah finished third on the opening round of the series in Qatar last month - taking four valuable championship points into the bargain - and will be driving the ex-Bin Sulayem Ford Focus World Rally Car for the second time, when the two-day, 19-special stage event gets underway from the Gulf Hotel in Manama at 09.30 on Thursday morning.

Partnered for the second successive event by the Lithuanian-born Australian Fred Gocentas, Al-Qassimi suffered several flat tyres in Qatar, which knocked him out of contention for the outright win, but he quickly acclimatised to the more powerful Ford and finished third overall, with support from Adnoc and the Saif-Zone Sharjah.

The former winner of the UAE International Rally in Abu Dhabi, Al-Qassimi has been a stalwart of the Group N category of Middle East rallying for several years, but has reached a point in his career when he felt the need to challenge Mohammed bin Sulayem for outright success. He acquired Sulayem's Focus after the Dubai Rally last year and the car is being managed on the event by the Australian Ivan Ingrilli, general manager at Al-Qassimi's Arabian Automotive Technologies workshops in Sharjah.

"It is so different to a Group N car," confessed Abdullah. "It is quicker, but the brakes and the suspension are so much better developed. You need to change your approach to braking areas and the speed at which you can cross rough terrain. We had a couple of teething problems in Qatar last month and the flat tyres were a set-back, but I was setting some good times towards the end and getting used to pushing harder."

Al-Qassimi faces competition, not only from Mohammed bin Sulayem this weekend, but from the former Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab in a Toyota Corolla WRC and Qatar's bright young hope Hamed Al-Sowaidi in a Subaru Impreza WRC.

Middle East rally championship after round 1 of 7:
1. Mohammed bin Sulayem - 10
2. Hamed Al-Sowaidi - 6
3. Abdullah Al-Qassimi - 4
4. Khaled Al-Qassimi - 3
5. Misfer Al-Marri - 2
6. Abdullah Al-Kuwari - 1

- duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Fred Gocentas