ABU DHABI // Having spent recent weeks ruing their exclusion from next year's World Rally Championship calendar, Abu Dhabi's unofficial period of motorsport mourning ended in spectacular fashion at the weekend, as land, sea and air versions of the emirate's Team Abu Dhabi franchises raced to victory in their respective world championships. There was also success for Khaled al Qubaisi, the Emirati driver who notched up his first competitive points as the Porsche Supercup series raced in Barcelona.
"Our Team Abu Dhabi initiative has truly come to the fore this weekend," said Ahmed Hussein, the deputy director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. The UAE capital's recovery started from the source of its disappointment: the world of rally. BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala's final stage victory in New Zealand got the ball rolling in the World Rally Championship. Mikko Hirvonen took fourth place to hand the previously struggling Ford team a championship renaissance.
Next up was al Qubaisi in Spain as he finished 14th. A technical disqualification may have robbed Team Abu Dhabi's Sean Edwards of first place, but third driver Sascha Maassen finished a commendable 11th following a mid-race accident which dented the German's podium chances. In nearby Portugal, UIM F1 Powerboat stars, Ahmed al Hameli and Thani al Qamzi, finished first and third respectively in the series' opening round.
And in Brazil, Hannes Arch's second consecutive win catapulted the Red Bull Air Race pilot to within touching distance of Paul Bonhomme, the overall series leader. With the actual Rio de Janeiro race cancelled due to poor weather, Arch triumphed courtesy of being the fastest qualifier. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org