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Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi drove VVIP and press around a rally track at the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team VVIP ‘Drive-Dayī event. Vivek Chaudhary, left, a sports writer for The National rode along. Nicole Hill / The National
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi drove VVIP and press around a rally track at the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team VVIP ‘Drive-Dayī event. Vivek Chaudhary, left, a sports writer for The National rode along. Nicole Hill / The National

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi ready for next Merc installment in Kuwait

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi heads into Round 2 of the Middle East Rally Championship in Kuwait next week while the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team continues to impress.

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is set for a return to action in Kuwait next week ahead of his second World Rally Championship outing of the season in Portugal.

Sheikh Khalid's comeback, following a break, could not have come at a better time with the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team increasing their lead following an excellent performance by Mikko Hirvonen.

Hirvonen was a runner-up finish in Rally Mexico while Dani Sordo finished fourth. Add to that, Chris Atkinson's drive despite setbacks to take the Abu Dhabi CitroŽn Total WRT's DS3 WRC to sixth place.

Sheikh Khalid who heads into Round 2 of the Middle East Rally Championship in Kuwait next week, was particularly pleased with Atkinson's performance.

"Chris showed a lot of character to climb back up the field after his bad luck on the first day, and we have to be pleased overall to finish with three drivers in the top six," Al Qassimi†said.

While he was unable to prevent Sebastien Ogier from securing a second consecutive WRC win, Hirvonen made sure of runner's up spot in Mexico by winning the longest stage of the rally as the event headed to its finish on Sunday.

Holding a slim 7.5s lead over Thierry Neuville at the start of the final day, the Finn was forced to push hard to hold off the Belgian, and a great drive to set the fastest time on the 54.85km-long Guanajuatito stage proved decisive.

"We only really had one mission today and that was to keep our second place, so I'm pleased we managed to do that," said Hirvonen at the finish. "Both our cars have finished in the points. That's in line with the target we had set ourselves and that we'll be looking to achieve throughout the season."

Sordo completed the rally to say: "It's a good result because it means that we increased our lead in the overall standings. Although we have made progress this weekend, I was unable to challenge the other guys because I was struggling to adapt to the car."

The Emirati driver Sheikh Khalid is also preparing for the next World Rally Championship race in Portugal from April 10-12.

sports@thenational.ae

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