Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi hopes that he can put on a good performance at the Rally France to help lift the spirits of his compatriots following the death of Theyab Awana, the UAE footballer.
The Emirati rally driver was in Europe preparing for the rally in Alsace when he discovered the news that Awana, the 21 year old who played for Baniyas, had been killed in a car crash near Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night.
Sheikh Khalid, who spearheaded a road safety campaign with the Abu Dhabi health authority in 2009, which has seen his face on a posters across the city warning drivers to put on their seat belts and drive safely, said he was shocked by the tragedy and that his thoughts had been with Awana's family in the build-up to the rally, which begins today.
"I could not believe it when I heard," he said. "At first I hoped it was just a rumour that was wrong when I heard about it and then when I looked online again I would see that he was OK or in hospital recovering.
"It is shocking and a terrible thing. He was a treasure, and we have lost him, which is very difficult to take and he must never be forgotten.
"We are a small country and this kind of tragedy hurts us, to lose someone so gifted, who, as a sportsperson, had the ability to make people happy and had such a good future ahead of him.
"I did not know him personally, but I have sent my condolences to the family and my thoughts have been with them in this difficult time."
The Ford Abu Dhabi driver acknowledged that his mind had not been on Rally France, the 11th round of the World Rally Championship, but said he would focus himself, beginning with today's eight stages of the three-day event, which finishes on Sunday.
"I was not really in the mood to get behind the wheel after hearing this sad news, but I will do my best to get a good result in France to try to lift the mood for my countrymen in this difficult time," he said.
The event is on tarmac, which is not the 39 year old's favoured surface, but coming on the back of achieving his best WRC finish with fifth place in the muddy gravel of Australia earlier this month, he is hoping to build on that.
"It will be not easy as Citroen are strong here and will have their main two cars [of Sebastien Loeb, the championship leader, and Sebastien Ogier] as well as four other cars all pushing to be in the top 10," he said.
"Tarmac is not my favourite terrain and it will depend on the weather. If it rains it will be difficult, like last year, when it was a nightmare. But if we are lucky with Mother Nature, I will look to push as hard as I can and if I can be around the top 10 that would be fantastic."