Majed al Shamsi and Bader al Jabri roared to a stunning one-two podium finish for Team Abu Dhabi junior drivers in the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) in Portugal. Al Shamsi snatched first place from runner-up al Jabri as three days of turbulent action came to a dramatic conclusion in the Algarve Stadium, Both drivers experienced difficulties on the loose gravel and were forced into SupeRally early in the competition. This meant they accepted time penalties to repair their cars before rejoining the rally.
However, they learned quickly from their mistakes and were able to adapt to the conditions in the Algarve countryside. The two aspiring Abu Dhabi champions were in second and third places going into the final day. But, having already fallen victim to the hard rock surfaces earlier in the competition, both proceeded with caution through the remaining stages. The no-frills tactic was to pay dividends as Christian Reidmann, the leader by 19 minutes, fell victim to the hazardous conditions, giving the lead to al Shamsi, the Emirati driver.
"There have been so many causalities to the terrain during this rally, that we are just pleased to have completed successfully, let alone to both finish at the top of the podium," said al Shamsi. "Both Bader and I have finished in good shape and with confidence, something that will prove vital as we look to the rest of the FSTi season." Talking about the success of the juniors, who took part in their first rally in Portugal last year, Ron Cremen, the manager of Team Abu Dhabi, said, "The boys were lucky with the final result, but nonetheless we are pleased. There is just no comparison between the boys' performance at the same event in 2009 and now.
"The improvement they have made in the last 12 months is testament to the success of the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development programme. You can't buy experience; you have to go out there and get it." Cremen added. The two drivers, who are backed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), belong to the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme, a grass-roots initiative created by ADTA in order to identify talent from within the emirate and aid in the development of future rally champions. Both al Shamsi and al Jabri joined the programme in 2007 after an exhaustive selection process that began with open auditions held in Abu Dhabi.
"Both Bader and Majed stood out during the auditions as representing an outstanding chance of reaching the top of the sport of rally - the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and the result at Rally de Portugal is another step closer to realising their potential," commented Ahmed Hussein, deputy director general of ADTA. The Team Abu Dhabi juniors will continue their FSTi campaign at Rally Finland on July 29-31, where they will be joined by Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi, their mentor and fellow Emirati competitor, competing for BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. * Agency