Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi Day 2 at Sardinia’s Rally d’Italia

Abu Dhabi World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi remains poised to add to his WRC Championship points haul after Day Two’s morning session of the Rally d’Italia in Sardinia. The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver sits 11th after stages seven, eight and nine of the sixth round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship.

Sardinia’s tough gravel roads are testing competitors with rocks and a slippery top surface adding to the challenges of narrow tracks and a fast course. Meanwhile, Al Qassimi’s BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mates, Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen, are first and second respectively, and the stage is now set for a thrilling second half of the rally with all three Ford drivers in with a chance of collecting points.

Al Qassimi had begun Day Two in tenth place, following a solid start on Sardinia’s gravel roads on Friday. The former Middle East Rally Champion ended Day 1 just 26 seconds off ninth place despite suffering brake failure half way through the first stage. The technical difficulties meant that he was unable to push his Ford to the limit throughout the first day’s opening three stages, but a strong showing in the afternoon brought him back into contention and kept him in touch with his closest challengers.

The morning of Day 2 has proved to be equally eventful with Al Qassimi finishing over two minutes adrift of Henning Solberg in eighth, the first points scoring position in the classifications. Despite the wide gap, Al Qassimi remains in a strong position as the treacherous roads heighten the chances of retirement from leading drivers. The Abu Dhabi ace will be hoping for a bit of luck in the afternoon’s stages and on the final day on Sunday, to move into point-scoring places.

“We have had a day and a half of very tough rallying with some very bad luck along the way, but we must be philosophical. We had real problems with our brakes yesterday morning and they almost stopped working entirely. It was disappointing but the mechanics looked at it during the lunchtime service and we battled and had a good afternoon. This morning’s stages were also tough but we are only at the half-way point and there is a long way still to go,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Junior Drivers, competing in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy, also had mixed Day One fortunes. After a stunning start where he found himself leading the field, Ahmed Al Mansoori had to endure overheating problems with his Ford Fiesta and took the decision not to compete in the day’s remaining stages. His team-mate Bader Al Jabri, however, made a stunning start and led the Fiesta Trophy classifications at the end of the Day 1, with Majed Al Shamsi further behind the field in third.

“Racing in WRC is a real step up for us and fantastic experience. We are driving with some of the best in the world and gaining valuable insights into what it takes to make a champion,” he said.

The presence of the four Emirati drivers is a hot talking point among the huge WRC fan following:

“All four are building quite a support lobby which strengthens their ability to build awareness of Abu Dhabi and its strong commitment to the sport,” said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) who is watching their progress from the rally sidelines. “Many within the sport are looking to our junior drivers programme as a role model for future development of rallying and believe we have hit on a highly sustainable model to nurture future success.”

Rally d’Italia’s Day Two is takeing the teams west for six more technically demanding stages on the Sassari region’s mountainous roads, which includes spectacular jumps in the Monte Lerno stage.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi team alliance is an initiative of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) which now has Italy established as a key market for the destination of distinction. ADTA is title sponsor of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team, Official Destination partner of the World Rally Championship, and creator of the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Program.

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