SPAIN, 3 October, 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi is putting his foot to the pedal and, after only three stages of Day Two of Rally de Espana, is fighting his way back up the placings following an engine fire late on Day...
SPAIN, 3 October, 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi is putting his foot to the pedal and, after only three stages of Day Two of Rally de Espana, is fighting his way back up the placings following an engine fire late on Day One which forced the emirati to retire and begin with time penalties in SupeRally today. Al Qassimi continues to contest his closest Championship rival Conrad Rautenbach, recording faster times than him, and World Rally Championship (WRC) podium contender Henning Solberg, in stages seven to nine. Having started the day in 42nd position the Abu Dhabi rally driver impressed by moving up an incredible 18 places to lie in 24th at mid day.
After an exciting and consistent start on the fast and twisting asphalt yesterday Al Qassimi was forced into retirement in stage five after a small fire broke out in the engine of his Ford Focus. To the dismay of the Emirati ace and his co-driver Michael Orr an oil leak sparked a blaze. At the time the pair were hotly competing against Rautenbach, keeping ahead of him for the duration of the day's stages and remaining in 11th place until the incident.
However, the Abu Dhabi driver's professional and expert team of mechanics were able to repair the damage last night and Al Qassimi continued his points pursuit. With the rally only half way through, and after the drama of previous WRC rounds, there is every chance that circumstances can change dramatically and he be back in contention.
"Smoke began emitting from the front of the car in stage four, we checked it and continued into stage five, but two km down the tarmac it became a problem, and when we stopped and looked under the bonnet the engine was on fire. I am of course disappointed, but determined. There are still two days of rally left, and today I am taking back time wherever I can," said Al Qassimi
Also competing in Spain are the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy (FSTi) who spent Day One getting to grips with the smooth surfaces and fast lines as they began their first attack on an asphalt rally. The three were tested by the terrain and the tight twists and sharp corners that typify Rally de Espana, improving their all round rally skills and holding solid ground, until stage six at the end of the day. Abu Dhabi Junior Majed Al Shamsi misjudged one of the impressive corners and a dramatic front end roll ensued. Al Shamsi and his co-driver Alan Harriman emerged unscathed, and again the Abu Dhabi rally team engineers managed to rebuild the car overnight for Al Shamsi to continue his FSTi campaign.
The Abu Dhabi Juniors began today's pursuit with experience, consistency and skill development their main drive. Bader Al Jabri and Ahmed Al Mansoori have gained confidence and begun to use this to push against their FSTi rivals. Solid performances from all three provided impressive times this morning particularly on the rally's longest stage, a 35km long asphalt challenge, which aided their placings at the mid way point. Al Jabri is currently holding fifth position, Al Mansoori is in sixth and Al Shamsi is making up time to take eighth.
"The Abu Dhabi team are displaying maturity in the way they have driven so far this rally," commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the organisation behind the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme. "The most important thing is that they continue to gain as much experience across all surfaces as possible. Rally Spain is a great opportunity for them to continue to grow their skills and build up more experience."