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Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and his co-driver Scott Martin fell afoul of the rough conditions at the Acropolis Rally.
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and his co-driver Scott Martin fell afoul of the rough conditions at the Acropolis Rally.

World Rally: Sardinia distance to Sheikh Khalid's liking

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is looking forward to the Sardinia Rally which, though conditions will be as tough as the Acropolis, is run over a shorter distance.

After crashing out of the Acropolis Rally three weeks ago, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is looking forward to the equally rough but significantly shorter races at the Sardinia Rally this weekend.

The stages in Sardinia, at the World Rally Championship's event, are 19km in length, compared to the marathon section of 52km and 47km courses he encountered in Portugal and Greece.

"It suits me because the shorter stages mean less wear and tear on the car and, most importantly, they're easier on the mind," the Emirati said. "When you have very long stages, like we did in Portugal and Greece, you can lose your concentration towards the end, and when that happens you can lose heaps of time."

To prepare for Sardinia, he has been consulting with his Abu Dhabi Citroen Total World Rally Team teammate, Mikko Hirvonen, and with his British co-driver, Scott Martin.

"We have a good relationship and it's developing," Sheikh Khalid said of Martin. "The most important thing is the chemistry between driver and co-driver inside the car. I have good friends who know a lot about rallying, but having your best friend with you in the car would be a disaster.

"Scott and I are learning every day we're together, and we stay in touch between events. We're always looking to try new things, and if they don't work we look to find something else that does."

Of Hirvonen, he said: "I get on well with Mikko and, of course, I have talked to him. He has given me some hints and the benefits of his experience as last year's winner. But for me it's important to be myself. I have to get the feeling back and become happy with the car again after what happened at Acropolis."

In Greece, he entered a corner at speed "and the car just slid and rolled", he said after dropping out of the race. "This is a very sensitive car, and a small change can make a big difference."

Sheikh Khalid will join 55 other starters for the 3.86km qualifying stage this morning outside the city of Olbia.

The rally begins tomorrow with eight stages, with eight more ahead of the finish on Saturday evening.

Most teams expect tyre wear to be more severe than usual over Sardinia's dry and rocky terrain.

 

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