AL QASSIMI THRILLS MIDDLE EASTERN CROWDS TO LEAD IN JORDAN Jordan, 2 April: Team Abu Dhabi's rally ace, Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi and his co-driver Michael Orr gave the Middle Eastern rally spectators plenty to cheer about with some thrilling...
AL QASSIMI THRILLS MIDDLE EASTERN CROWDS TO LEAD IN JORDAN
Jordan, 2 April: Team Abu Dhabi's rally ace, Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi and his co-driver Michael Orr gave the Middle Eastern rally spectators plenty to cheer about with some thrilling driving today on the first stages of the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) in Jordan. The Emirati, lead driver of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's (ADTA) Team Abu Dhabi rally programme, has taken the rally by storm, winning all but one of the morning's stages to retain a slender lead at the head of the pack and a 32 second advantage over his nearest rival.
The opening stages of the MERC this morning presented the drivers with a particularly demanding test of their rally skills with loose gravel, unmarked roads, and large rocks making Jordan Rally one of the toughest rounds on the calendar. Having won the rally previously in 2007 and grown up rallying in the similar desert conditions of Abu Dhabi, Al Qassimi has the experience and capability to deliver in such tough conditions and so far he has capitalised on his expertise to give the Middle Eastern fans a dream start.
Commenting on the morning's activities Al Qassimi said: "The stages are fast and the corners are difficult to see, but I am pleased with how we have done so far. It is fantastic to compete so close to my home in Abu Dhabi and with the support of my Middle Eastern fans. The enthusiasm at the Service Park and out on stages provides a real boost to my confidence."
Joining Al Qassimi in the Jordanian desert are his four Emirati team mates, Bader Al Jabri, Majed Al Shamsi, Sultan Al Amri and Khalil Al Shaikh, also flying the flag for Abu Dhabi and hoping to provide the emirate with impressive results of their own. The four young drivers have earned their places in Team Abu Dhabi through their performances in Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's (ADTA) Junior Driver Development Programme, designed to nurture Emirati motorsport talent and unearth the rally champions of the future. After a tough morning in the rocky desert, all four have made solid starts with Al Jabri in ninth, Al Shamsi in 12th, Al Amri 16th and Al Shaikh 17th.
"This impressive start to the rally is a sign of how hard the Team Abu Dhabi juniors have been working to develop their skills and techniques," commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General ADTA. "To see them recording fast times and approaching each stage with such maturity is a credit to both the Development Programme, and to their fans. ADTA looks forward to seeing how they improve across the rest of the season and providing Team Abu Dhabi fans with some home champions when Rally Abu Dhabi is run at the end of the year."
Meanwhile, competing in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) that runs alongside the MERC, the ADTA-sponsored BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, currently hold a joint lead with Citroen driver, Sebastian Loeb. Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala completed the opening stages after a demanding morning of driving, however, team mate Mikko Hirvonen has been less fortunate and was forced to retire for the day with a broken suspension.