AL QASSIMI DRAWS STRENGTH FROM PORTUGAL TO BOOST MIDDLE EAST EFFORT IN JORDAN…
Sheikh Khalid spearheads five-car Emirati challenge by Abu Dhabi Racing
Abu Dhabi, 23 April, 2013: The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will call on his latest World Rally Championship experience as he looks to reignite his Middle East title challenge in next month’s Jordan International Rally where he spearheads a five-car challenge by Abu Dhabi Racing.
Partnered by British co-driver Scott Hamilton in his Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 RRC, Al Qassimi has emerged from his recent WRC outing in the Rally de Portugal with some new confidence to carry into the third round of this year’s FIA Middle East Championship, running from 9-11 May.
At the end of a difficult three days in Portugal, during which he never felt fully comfortable behind the wheel, a top-ten finish and his first World Championship points of the season have given the Emirati driver fresh belief as he prepares to do battle again with Nasser Al Attiyah.
“I know I can do better, but taking everything into account, it was a good result in Portugal,” said Al Qassimi, who goes to Jordan hoping to reverse the results in Qatar and Kuwait where he finished second to Al Attiyah in the first two rounds of the 2013 Middle East series.
“This is a new team and a new car which still needs a lot of work, and we can’t get the set up right overnight. I wasn’t happy in Portugal and we still need a lot of testing to get the balance right in the car. But when I consider that I was out of rallying for some time, and I still have some way to be at my best again, I came away from Portugal feeling better, so let’s see what we can do in Jordan.”
Winner of the Jordan Rally title in 2007, Al Qassimi was on course for a second victory in 2010 when he led on the first leg before being hit by a mechanical problem at the start of the next day.
Al Qassimi finished fifth last year as he made a cautious return to rallying after almost a year on the sidelines as a result of injury, and he has great respect for the special stages in Jordan, many of which remain from the event’s three years in the World Rally Championship.
“You have to be very precise there,” he said. “If you go off line on those stages, you can hit something or go off the side of a hill. You want to keep a good pace, but it’s dangerous to push too hard and you have to keep the right balance.”
Al Qassimi, the 2004 FIA Middle East champion, is one of five Emirati drivers heading to Jordan with Abu Dhabi Racing, which was established at the end of last year to increase Emirati participation in international motorsport.
Majed Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri, products of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority’s Junior Driver Training Programme which gave them their first Middle East Championship experience, return to Jordan in a pair of Subaru N15s to contest the production category.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Al Mutawaa and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, newcomers to rallying this season after topping a three-day Citroën Racing-supported selection programme in Abu Dhabi last December, line up in the two-wheel drive class in two Citroen DS3 R3 2WDs.
After a ceremonial start in Amman on 9 May, the main action in the Jordan Rally over the next two days will again be centred around the Jordan Valley, close to the Dead Sea, the lowest land spot on earth at 420m below sea level. While the exact route is kept closely under wraps, it is expected to feature many of the challenging stages that were used when Jordan hosted the WRC in 2008, 2010 and 2011.