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The UAE´s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi made a solid start to the Rally de Portugal today as he pursued his first World Rally Championship points of the season. Courtesy of Total Communications
The UAE´s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi made a solid start to the Rally de Portugal today as he pursued his first World Rally Championship points of the season. Courtesy of Total Communications

Abu Dhabi Citroen's Al Qassimi on track for points finish in Rally Portugal

Cautious strategy works for Emirati and the 11th-placed driver is confident of moving up despite 'few problems with the clutch'.

The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi made a solid start to the Rally de Portugal yesterday as he pursued his first World Rally Championship points of the season.

After the first four special stages, Al Qassimi and British co-driver Scott Martin held 11th position in their Abu Dhabi Citroen Total, keeping their target of a top-10 finish well within reach over the next two days.

Prior to the fourth round of the 2013 WRC, Al Qassimi had said that his priority, particularly on the opening leg, would be to avoid mistakes in an event characterised by very fast, twisting, technical stages where a lapse in concentration can prove destructive.

That point was emphasised yesterday during the third special stage when the Norwegian Mads Ostberg, the rally leader at that point, rolled his Ford Fiesta and went out of the rally.

Al Qassimi, competing in only his second WRC event after a 15-month gap, is bidding to add to his eighth and ninth place finishes in Portugal in 2009 and 2010, and made a cautious start over the first loop of two stages, which he completed in 14th place.

But with the same two stages then being repeated, he slashed 23 seconds and then 18 seconds off his two earlier times to climb three places.

He said: "It's getting better. We have a few problems with the clutch, but we have to live with it for the rest of the day."

With four stages completed, France's championship leader Sebastien Ogier held a 2.4-second advantage over Spain's Dani Sordo in a Citroen Total Abu Dhabi DS3, with the Finn Jari-Matti Latvala third ahead of the other Abu Dhabi DS3, driven by Mikko Hirvonen.

In addition to their shared individual target of a rally win in Portugal, Sordo and Hirvonen are looking to extend their lead in the WRC manufacturers' championship for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team.

After the fourth stage, the drivers set off on the first leg of a 14-hour, 665km journey to Lisbon for tonight's 3.27km super special spectator stage, before turning around and heading back to where they started the trip for the overnight halt. The rally continues today with two loops of three special stages, with four more stages to follow tomorrow, including a 52.3km stage to be run twice, prior to the finish in the 30,000-capacity Algarve Stadium.

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