AL QASSIMI 'STUMPED' DOWN UNDER BUT NOT OUT Abu Dhabi Rally Ace In Enforced First Day Retirement At Rally Australia Gold Coast, Australia, 4th September 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi team driver Khaled Al Qassimi was forced to retire from the...
AL QASSIMI 'STUMPED' DOWN UNDER BUT NOT OUT
Abu Dhabi Rally Ace In Enforced First Day Retirement At Rally Australia
Gold Coast, Australia, 4th September 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi team driver Khaled Al Qassimi was forced to retire from the first full day of Repco Rally Australia after hitting a tree stump which damaged his Ford Focus. The incident brought to a halt Al Qassimi's strong performance which saw him and co-driver Michael Orr lying in tenth position ahead of a further 13 stages.
"Of course it is disappointing to withdraw now, I have lost an afternoon on the new Australian surfaces, but will continue to compete tomorrow and do my level best to recover from this early set back," said Al Qassimi.
All WRC drivers started Rally Australia on the same footing, having seen all 35 stages for the first time during their recce earlier in the week. The morning was set to provide high drama as all drivers got to grips with the short and sharp earlier stages. Al Qassimi began well, engaging in a close battle for ninth and tenth position with his Driver Championship points rival, Conrad Rauntenbach. Both drivers finished the first six stages within a second of each other, putting Al Qassimi in reach of a top ten championship placing.
Unfortunately, the eighth stage stopped Al Qassimi in his tracks as the Emirati hit a tree stump that shattered his windscreen and damaged his steering. The damage could not be rectified on stage and he was compelled to halt his points pursuit for the rest of the day. The car returned to the Service Park and the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team engineers' will ensure that Al Qassimi is able to continue in Super Rally tomorrow.
Al Qassimi's backer, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is behind the BP Ford Team Abu Dhabi initiative, remained undaunted by their driver's set back. "Khaled's rally career has taught him fortitude in the face of obstacles and I know he will give all he has got to fight back to points contention," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. "A huge following back home, and I think in Australia where Abu Dhabi now has a significant profile, is urging him on every step of the way. In motorsport, as with other sports, you have to take the rough with the smooth and this is a challenge simply waiting to be surmounted. Khaled has a fantastic service team behind him -- one of the best -- and with its support, it's not over yet by a long chalk."
Meanwhile BP Ford Abu Dhabi team mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were performing consistently well, both winning stages throughout the day and continuing their push for points in both the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championship. Latvala currently holds the lead at the end of day one.