CRUNCH-TIME NEARS FOR ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CHALLENGE BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Hirvonen to kick-off biggest ever Abu Dhabi motorsport fortnight with maiden WRC title in Wales Abu Dhabi, 15 October, 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi World ...
CRUNCH-TIME NEARS FOR ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CHALLENGE
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Hirvonen to kick-off biggest ever Abu Dhabi motorsport fortnight with maiden WRC title in Wales
Abu Dhabi, 15 October, 2009: BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are readying for this month's Rally GB, 23-25 October, with a slender one point lead over reigning Champion Sebastien Loeb at the top of the World Rally Championship (WRC) standings. This is the closest fought Championship in years, and with the ten month campaign culminating on wet Welsh gravel roads best-suited to the Finn, Rally GB could be the setting for Hirvonen's first ever WRC title. Wales Rally GB also marks the 2009 finale for the Abu Dhabi WRC star Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi who has enjoyed his best season ever in rally's elite competition and is after yet more points.
"Mikko has every chance of being victorious this weekend," commented Al Qassimi ahead of the weekend's action. "The conditions are suited to his driving and he has proved he has the ability throughout the season. This is going to be a true test of resilience and consistency for Mikko, but he has a great team behind him and we will all be doing everything possible to make it happen for him".
Coming just a week ahead of the inaugural 2009 Etihad Airways Formula 1™ Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final WRC round marks the start of a thrilling fortnight of motorsport action for Abu Dhabi race fans. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's (ADTA) world rally programme is part of a bigger motorsport picture that includes sponsorship of Team Abu Dhabi in the Red Bull Air Race series and the F1 Powerboat Championship, where its commitment also extends to hosting championship rounds in each. The partnerships have helped to sustain awareness of Abu Dhabi as a world class destination of distinction, and to inspire a new generation of Emiratis to become motorsport enthusiasts.
Emirati rally star Al Qassimi has been challenging for WRC points consistently throughout his 10 round championship campaign this year. The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver has amassed six points so far this season and will be looking for yet more on the Welsh gravel. The rally ace currently sits in 12th place overall, but with only two points separating him from the top ten, the race is on for Al Qassimi to shorten the gap and move even further up the standings.
Meanwhile the Team Abu Dhabi junior drivers wait with nervous anticipation as they look to complete their first ever season in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy international (FSTi). All three Emiratis joined the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme with little rallying experience, focusing on gaining skills and knowledge across all terrains that the six stage season had to offer them. Throughout the year they have developed considerably and now approach Rally GB with the confidence to make a play for the FSTi title. Ahmed Al Mansoori currently lies third, Majed Al Shamsi fourth, and Bader Al Jabri fifth.
"Since the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority began its world rally programme in 2007 the competition between the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team and its rivals has always led to high drama and exciting finishes, but this is set to be the most thrilling season yet," commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. "This has been a historic month for Abu Dhabi motorsport. Team Abu Dhabi has dominated land, sea and air, and the tremendous international following that is given to all the Abu Dhabi teams has been rewarded with world class performances."