x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Al Qassimi excited to get season started

The UAE's Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi is looking forward to the challenging season opening Rally Sweden.

Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi.
Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi.

The last time the UAE's Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi drove in Sweden, his first winter rally, he finished in 26th position. In remembering that week of snow banks, studded tyres and frozen extremities, al Qassimi quickly labels it his "most difficult rally ever". The BP Ford Abu Dhabi third driver, however, is glad to be back. "I've missed rallying during the off-season break," he said. "After so long out of the car it will be tough to get back in the groove, especially in a round as challenging as Sweden.

"It's a bit of a double-edged sword coming here straight away. There's excitement about being back, but also nervousness because of the usual things, like the lack of testing. I've not driven on snow for two years, but I found it fun then so I'm looking forward to it." Part of that fun came courtesy of winning the first Colin's Crest - a jump competition held in honour of former champion Colin McRae, who died in 2007. His soaring 36-metre jump that day demonstrated he had the required ingredient for any rally driver: courage.

Al Qassimi's prodigious leap saw his fellow WRC drivers christen him "King of the Jumps". The day remains a fond memory for the Emirati driver, with the leaps now a trademark of his style. "I remember it well," he said. "I hit the crest and just flew. "The landing was huge, but the car kept straight and off we went." emegson@thenational.ae