After two days of exhilarating action across the desert landscape south of Doha, Qatar’s capital city, Abu Dhabi’s World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi narrowly missed out on claiming first place at the Qtel Qatar International Rally when he fell victim to the unforgiving rocky terrain.
Having finished day one only 32 seconds behind his long-time rival, Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, the Emirati rally ace fought back to gain time in today’s stages, eventually taking the overall lead after stage nine. Behind the wheel of the Fiesta S2000’s first competitive drive, both Al Qassimi and Al Attiyah provided enthralling entertainment for the Middle Eastern motorsport fans as the two champions both had to recover from punctures caused by the rough surfaces of the Qatari stages. Eventually Al Qassimi was forced to retire in Stage 13 after experiencing brake problems and sustaining his third puncture of the day.
“I am disappointed to retire, the S2000 is an incredibly competitive car and we were putting up a good fight for first place, but the Qatar Rally has proved quite a harsh terrain to rally on and we have to just learn from the experience.” commented Al Qassimi.
Elsewhere, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s (ADTA) junior driver development team kept level heads whilst progressing through the second day’s stages. They used the opportunity to learn valuable lessons on the need to adapt to the conditions and keep their vehicles on the road. The Qatari rally has proved to be a benchmark in their ever evolving journey towards the top levels of the sport, and the junior team has spent the weekend proving that ADTA’s investment in grassroots talent is paying dividends already.
“I am really pleased with the start the team has made to the season. They have shown maturity out on stages, and it is testament to their progression that they have managed to hold their own where so many other drivers are failing to finish.”  Said Ron Cremen, Team Manager- Team Abu Dhabi. “The Middle East Rally Championship is the perfect environment for them to develop and we will continue to compete at other rounds.”
Outstanding results in particular for Ahmed Al Mansoori and Majed Al Shamsi, who finished in fourth and fifth positions, pointing the way for the future of Middle Eastern rally success. Disappointment struck Bader Al Jabri, who retired on the penultimate stage due to drive shaft problems.
Qatar has proved a tough test for the juniors, but Team Abu Dhabi will be looking to emulate and improve upon their results throughout the year, moving ever closer to ADTA’s ultimate goal of nurturing future UAE rally champions all the way to the very top of the sport.
“Team Abu Dhabi has shown its resilience in the face of a real test of skills on the rocky terrain and we look forward to seeing how they develop over the course of the year,” commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. “It will be a pleasure to see them compete on the desert stages in their home nation at Rally Abu Dhabi later on this year.”
Al Qassimi will begin his WRC campaign with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team at Rally Sweden, 12-14 February, where he swaps sand for snow and sub-zero temperatures. The Abu Dhabi Juniors will continue to compete in the Middle East Rally Championship and begin their Fiesta Sporting Trophy International campaign at Rally Portugal, 28-30 May.
Qtel Qatar International Rally – Final Results:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Fiesta S2000                            2h 29m 38.5s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza                                                            2h 36m 04.5s
3. Sheikh Hamed bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Yousef Mohammed (QA) Subaru Impreza                 2h 42m 45.5s
4. Ahmed Al-Mansoori (UAE)/Killian Duffy (IRL) Subaru Impreza                                             2h 47m 40.7s
5. Majed Al-Shamsi (UAE)/Allan Harryman (GB) Subaru Impreza                                              2h 47m 45.3s
6. David Scialom (GB)/Thomas Mathias (GB) Subaru Impreza                                                      2h 55m 05.3s
7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) Subaru Impreza                                                     2h 56m 33.4s
8. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA)/Denis Giraudet (F) Subaru Impreza                                                2h 56m 46.6s
9. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X                       2h 57m 38.6s
10. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Shraa (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution                              2h 58m 03.0s
11. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA)/Bazel Ghazzawi (RL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution                    3h 04m 19.0s
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