Al Qassimi’s ‘down under’ challenge
- 30th August 2009, 8:55pm
Currently sitting 12th in the World Rally Championship, Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team driver, arrives in Australia with high hopes of antipodean success in northern New South Wales at Repco Rally Australia, from 3rd â€“ 6th September.
Al Qassimi needs just two points to move up into the top ten, and with only three rallies left in the series, the outback provides the perfect backdrop for the Emirati ace to challenge for yet more points.
From Sydney, Al Qassimi moves to the dramatic Northern rivers on Monday to prepare for the challenge ahead and get familiar with the beach-side Rally Service Park. Having moved from its original home in Perth, Western Australia, this is the first time all the WRC drivers will drive the 35 new stages in the Tweed countryside. The rally is spread across hundreds of dusty kilometres of east coast countryside, with some inter-stage transfers being more than 50 kilometres apart.
The very varied conditions, from tarmac sections to hillside gravel tracks, will all give Al Qassimi the chance to claim valuable points and contest his closest rivals Mads Ostberg and Conrad Rautenbach in the Championship standings. The drivers are divided by just three points so there is all to play for in this 10th WRC round.
â€œI am very much looking forward to the Australian east coast rally experience. The stages will be new to everyone, so we are all in the same position to give it our best shot and get the most out of the challenge. I have great confidence in my car and the team, so I just need to prove that I can perform on the unknown stages,â€ said Al Qassimi.
One BP Ford Abu Dhabi team member who will welcome the new rally location is Mikko Hirvonen. Having flown to victory during Rally Finland and in three of his last four starts, Hirvonen will relish the unfamiliar roads. These new Rally Australia tracks could well present another opportunity for the Flying Finn to extend his lead at the top of the Driver Championship.
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi team is also holding a close second place in the Manufacturersâ€™ Championship, and with only three rallies left in the series all three BP Ford Abu Dhabi drivers will be hoping to give of their best to bring the team victory.
The stage is now set for three thrilling days of high speed, dusty rallying, and with the Championships balanced on a knife-edge, the Australian stages will provide nail-biting drama at this key season juncture.
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