Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is confident that further developments to his Abu Dhabi Citroen Total Team DS3 car will allow him to challenge for victory at the second round of the Middle East Rally Championship (Merc) in Kuwait next month.
The Emirati driver put in an impressive display in the opening round of the championship in Qatar, finishing second behind Nasser Al Attiyah after running his rival close, with his hopes being curtailed by a puncture after he had led during the first leg.
He and Citroen studied his car's performance as he competed in Rally Sweden in the World Rally Championship this month, and he is encouraged with the findings as he spearheads Abu Dhabi Racing's (ADR) involvement in the event in Kuwait, with five cars taking part in the various categories.
"I spent some time in Sweden with the top Citroen engineers who had been studying videos of the car from the Qatar Rally," Sheikh Khalid said.
"It was obvious that the car is very strong. But we felt there were a few things that could be done to the chassis to improve the balance, gain more traction and make it a little faster."
Based in the country's southern sand flats, the Kuwait Rally, which moved from its traditional home in the north last year, will see Sheikh Khalid negotiate the race's special stages for the first time since the change.
"It will be good to have some extra speed in Kuwait, especially as I don't know the stages there and will have little time to get to know them," he said.
"When I won in 2010 the route was in the north and it was one of the best Middle East rallies I've ever driven. The organisers had done a great job in grading the tracks and making the stages very clearly defined.
"The year before, the rally ran through very flat desert areas where it was difficult to see the route and we actually got lost. The new rally route is in the south, so it will be completely new to me. I just hope there are no major surprises."
Sheikh Khalid will test his newly developed car for two days before the event, which runs from March 21 to 23, as he looks to familiarise himself with the car.
Mohammed Al Sahlawi leads the rest of the ADR contingent taking part as he heads to Kuwait leading both the two-wheel drive and Young Driver categories which have been introduced in this year's Merc championship, while Mohammed Al Mutawaa drives a second two-wheel drive Citroen DS3 R3.
Bader Al Jabri enters the second round of the season holding second place in the new Group N championship, while Majid Al Shamsi - like Al Jabri, a product of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority's Junior Driver Development Programme - pilots a second Subaru N15.
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