Fired-up Al Qassimi inspired by 40th WRC start

By on Monday, April 11, 2011

Ford Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is determined to mark his 40th World Rally Championship (WRC) start with a strong, points-scoring performance in this weekend’s Rally Jordan – round four of this year’s 13-event calendar.

Armed with almost a decade of experience negotiating Jordan’s rocky, man-made gravel tracks, Al Qassimi identified matching the top 10 finish he secured in the 2008 Dead Sea round’s maiden WRC foray as the ultimate objective.

“It’s always a fantastic feeling to represent Abu Dhabi in the WRC and Jordan is the perfect place to reach this personal milestone,” said Al Qassimi, who will be joined by Ulster co-driver Michael Orr in the Ford Abu Dhabi cockpit. “With Michael reaching 100 WRC starts in Portugal (the series’ last round), it seems to be a time for milestones at the moment – we’re determined to grab as strong a points haul as possible.”

Having tasted victory in Jordan in 2007, when the event was a Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) fixture, the UAE’s leading rally driver finished ninth in the WRC run three years ago. When Jordan was a twin WRC - MERC event last year, Al Qassimi was forced to retire from the race when leading the regional series’ field.

Now, with more than 100 professional motorsport events under his belt, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority-backed driver revealed that previous Jordan experiences – positive and negative - would aid his push for points in a landmark 40th start in off-road motorsport’s premier series.

I have deep knowledge of these stages, always get a good reception from the local fans and have shown speed and form here in the past,” added Al Qassimi. “In 2008, I was sitting comfortably in seventh when l suffered two punctured tyres in the final stage that took me out of point-scoring contention. I’ve been awaiting the next WRC opportunity to tackle this familiar terrain ever since.”

The constructed Jordan passes are run some 420 metres below sea level and pass numerous historic sites, such as the Jordan River, Mount Nebo and the ancient Roman-built city of Jerash.

Al Qassimi insisted sight-seeing is not on his itinerary. “These purpose-built tracks lack the natural contours and usual landmarks, so our pace notes have to be extremely accurate to identify the direction of the paths –we’re ready and are eyeing a strong result.”

After three events, Al Qassimi has one point in the drivers’ championship courtesy of a 10th place finish in the Swedish season-opener. Ford Abu Dhabi holds a 10-point lead at the top of the manufacturers' standings, while Mikko Hirvonen, the team’s lead driver, also heads the drivers' championship on 58 points – level with Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb, the seven-time world champion.

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