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The Dubai Rally, the final round of the Middle East Rally Championship, served up a thrilling contest from start to finish. Despite enjoying a superb race, Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin were not rewarded with the result their performance deserved, as they were forced to retire just shy of the finish. The Citroën DS3 RRC crew nonetheless made their mark on the race, winning five of the twelve stages.

Held in the deserts surrounding the Dubai and Sharjah emirates, the final round of the Middle East Rally Championship saw an engrossing battle between the two leading contenders, with just seconds separating them throughout the rally. On SS1, Khalid Al Qassimi set the second fastest time, just 1/10th behind the leader. The Abu Dhabi Citroën World Rally Team driver then won the next stage to take the overall lead in the rally.

“It’s a good start, but we have to fight for every single second on all of the corners, and be careful with the braking and traction,” commented Khalid Al Qassimi at the midday service. “I’ve got a fight on my hands and just have to keep going…”

The lead changed hands during the second runs on the stages. After opting for a less effective tyre choice and being given a ten-second penalty for a false start on SS5, Khalid lost over half a minute in the afternoon: “The tyres didn’t work like we thought they would but most of all I had trouble on the racing line, which was covered in loose dirt. I lost time, but it’s far from over yet and we’re going to keep fighting on the second leg.”

On Saturday morning, the Citroën DS3 RRC driver produced a remarkable performance to win all of the day’s first three stages. Having cut the lead by around ten seconds, Khalid remained positive: “I really enjoyed driving this morning. It’s not easy to reduce the gaps, because the stages are mainly made up of long sections where everyone is flat out all the way. I’m going to keep pushing on the last three stages.”

After securing his fifth stage win on SS10, Khalid Al Qassimi trailed the leader by less than 15 seconds. But the final outcome of the race was decided on the last stage, when the Abu Dhabi driver suffered a double puncture. Although he ended SS12 in second place, he was forced to retire afterwards as he was unable to complete the long road section with only three wheels. “It’s just part and parcel of racing. I had decided to push as hard as possible to press my case right to the end,” explained Khalid. “I’m nonetheless pleased with the level of performance we showed this weekend.”

The two young drivers selected by Abu Dhabi Racing to contest the 2013 Middle East Rally Championship made it to the finish. Mohamed Al Sahlawi wrapped up the ‘two-wheel drive’ title by claiming another category win. After losing five minutes due to a puncture on Friday afternoon, Mohamed Al Mutawaa ended as runner-up.
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