AL QASSIMI TURNS BACK TIME IN AUSTRALIA BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Hirvonen maintains Driver Championship lead Australia, 6th September 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi team driver Khaled Al Qassimi fought his way to a valiant 20th position at Repco...
AL QASSIMI TURNS BACK TIME IN AUSTRALIA
BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Hirvonen maintains Driver Championship lead
Australia, 6th September 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi team driver Khaled Al Qassimi fought his way to a valiant 20th position at Repco Rally Australia despite an enforced retirement on Day One when his car hit a tree stump. Two days of mature driving saw him claw back an impressive ten places.
On the rally's final day, Al Qassimi battled some of the event's toughest conditions so far, with a sleep-depriving 05.00am start complicating the slippery and technical stages. His stamina and concentration levels were tested to the maximum, but Al Qassimi seized the challenge and continued to reclaim time on his rivals. In beating closest competitors in the Drivers' Championship, Conrad Rautenbach and Federico Villagra, in five of the first speed tests, Al Qassimi's fast, consistent performances saw him finishing within the top eight drivers in all but one of the stages today.
"I am of course disappointed not to have finished within the points, but for me it was about more than just the rally. Australia is a key market to my main backer, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and I happy to be able to visit both the East Coast and Sydney to help spread awareness of Abu Dhabi as a tourist destination," said the Emirati ace.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala also had a thrilling rollercoaster experience that saw both drivers contending for the lead throughout, recording some of the fastest stages times across all three days. They looked set to take two podium places and maximum Manufacturer points, when Latvala experienced tyre difficulties in Stage 27, knocking him out of contention for a top three finish. After a closely fought battle with title rival Sebastian Loeb, Hirvonen finished second - maintaining his Driver Championship lead by just one point. The series' final two rallies are now set to be a fight to the line for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver.
"The team went to Australia and have shown they have what it takes to deliver on totally new stages, with a little more luck we could have been celebrating our fifth consecutive win", commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority which is behind the BP Ford Team Abu Dhabi alliance.
The 11th WRC round will take place in Spain, 2nd -- 5th October, where the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team will continue to challenge for championship points. Also competing will be the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers, who will return to rally in the penultimate round of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International.