TRIER, Germany // Rashid Al Ketbi, the Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver, and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle will debut their new Ford Fiesta R5 in this weekend's Rally Germany, Round 9 of the World Rally Championship (WRC).
The event starts Thursday in Cologne, for the first time.
Al Ketbi, who races in the WRC2 category, began the season in a Skoda Fabia S2000 but decided to switch after the Acropolis Rally in Greece, Round 6.
As they awaited delivery of the new Ford, the duo entered Round 7, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, in a Subaru Impreza in a bid to gain more experience. They were not allowed to earn WRC2 points.
Al Ketbi and Hepperle managed to shake down the new car at a test session near Nancy, in France, last week and the Emirati is delighted with the results.
"It's obviously different to the Skoda and will take a little getting used to, but we had an excellent test session and will spend some more time preparing before the start," said the Fazza Rally Team star, who will carry out another pre-rally shakedown on Wednesday.
"Germany is a fast and demanding rally on difficult stages. The tracks through the vineyards will require complete concentration.
"Then we have the stages in the Baumholder [region] and these are tricky. There may be mud and dust on the roads to add to the hazards and I will need to do well here to be competitive in WRC2."
The Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, the defending world champion, has won nine of the 10 WRC events staged in Germany and missed out on outright victory, in 2011 when he collected a puncture and Sebastien Ogier stepped in to take the win.
Loeb will not be present in Germany this season and Ogier has a chance to extend his huge, 90-point championship lead over Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville on home soil for the dominant Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Al Ketbi is tackling the WRC2 category alongside several up-and-coming rally stars. He currently holds ninth place in the points standings after missing the last event in Finland. He will be eager to close the gap on the mid-season front-runner, the Qatari Abdulaziz Al Kuwari.
The Qatari will be hoping to defend a 15-point lead over the Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs, in Germany, although the former Formula One driver Robert Kubica is the man in form and holds third, a mere two points further adrift.
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