Al Qassimi sets his sights high down under

Al Qassimi sets his sights high down under

09.09.2013: photo caption: Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi – hoping to reproduce some of his best form in Rally Australia this weekend.

photo caption:  Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi – hoping to reproduce some of his best form in Rally Australia this weekend.

Emirati driver targeting another big performance for Abu Dhabi Citroën in Rally Australia

The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is targeting another World Rally Championship boost for the partnership between Abu Dhabi Racing and Citroën in Rally Australia this weekend.

Dani Sordo’s first WRC victory of the season in Germany last month marked a return to form for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, and Al Qassimi is looking for another big performance down under to keep the race for the manufacturers’ title alive.

Speaking from the Abu Dhabi Citroën rally base in Coffs Harbour today, the Emirati driver, whose fifth place in Australia in 2011 was his best WRC finish to date, said:  “I hope we can reproduce the kind of performance we achieved here two years ago, but above all I would like to see a DS3 WRC on the top step of the podium.”

Al Qassimi has particularly high hopes for Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, who won in Australia in 2006, 2009 and 2011, and is also expecting a strong showing from Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke and co-driver Chris Patterson in the second Citroën Total Abu Dhabi DS3.

With Sordo taking a pre-arranged break for the tenth round of this year’s championship, Meeke gets a well-deserved chance in Australia to underline his WRC credentials following his impressive showing in Rally Finland last month.

After being selected by Al Qassimi to drive the Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3 in his absence, Meeke was just one stage away from a fifth  place finish in Finland when he went out of the event.

“It was a great drive and he was unlucky on that occasion, but hopefully Kris can go all the way this time,” said the UAE driver, happy to be back on the gravel stages in Australia after a difficult time on the rain-soaked tarmac in Rally Deutschland.

“This is a very enjoyable rally in terms of driving. The roads seem quite natural for me, more so than those in Germany in any case.

photo caption:   Sheikh Khalid and co-driver Scott Martin are ready for another tough WRC test in their Abu Dhabi Citroën Total DS3

“It’s not going to be easy for any of us, but we hope to have turned the corner with the win in Germany which has given everyone a lift.”

Partnered by Scott Martin in his Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3, Al Qassimi now looks forward to the Thursday morning qualifying stage in Australia following a two-day recce of the 932.77km route.

After two evening runs on the super special spectator stage in Coffs Harbour, the coastal town located mid-way between Sydney and Brisbane, the rally begins in earnest on Friday with eight special stages to be negotiated. Six more stages on each of the next two days lead to the finish on Sunday afternoon.

After Sordo’s victory and Hirvonen’s third place yielded 40 pts in Germany, the Citroën Abu Dhabi WRT have moved to within 22pts of leaders Volkswagen in the manufacturers championship, with four rounds remaining.

- Tony Lewis, Total Communications Dubai - also photos


09.09.2013 / MaP

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