x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Qassimi produces best in Spain

The Emirati driver put in a tenacious drive in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi car to recover from a frustrating opening day.

Khalid al Qassimi takes a corner during Rally Spain yesterday.
Khalid al Qassimi takes a corner during Rally Spain yesterday.

Khalid al Qassimi picked up his best result of the season in the World Rally Championship (WRC) yesterday as he finished seventh at the Rally Spain.

The Emirati driver put in a tenacious drive in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi car to recover from a frustrating opening day at the Salou event, which was won by Sebastien Loeb, the world champion.

He had stood only 12th after suffering brake problems, but bounced back to move up the order and finished in the championship points for the third time this season, beating his previous best performance of the year, when he was eighth in Germany in August.

"This rally has gone a long way to building my confidence," al Qassimi said. "After crashing in Finland and Japan, we deserved a good result and this one is right up there with my sixth place finish in Greece last year."

Having seen his safety-first approach rewarded, he added: "We started off cautiously on the alternating surfaces, but our persistence paid off and we are pleased to have claimed six drivers' points."

Much of yesterday's action involved his duel with Henning Solberg in the privateer Ford. Al Qassimi had gone into yesterday's final day ninth, and edged Solberg on the first run to leapfrog the Norwegian by a mere 0.8 seconds.

The Emirati gained another place before the next stage - the shorter 4.11km La Serra d'Almos - had even started.

Frigyes Turan, who had been sitting comfortably ahead of al Qassimi and Solberg, had problems in the final kilometre of El Priotat and dropped down the order.

Buoyed by the unexpected jump, al Qassimi went on to increase his lead on the afternoon re-runs and eventually finished 5.5 seconds ahead of Solberg.

"Henning was only a few seconds ahead of us at the start of the day," he said. "It was a great battle and even better to come out on top."

Al Qassimi's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala boosted his hopes of finishing third in the championship as he took fourth place in Spain.

The Finnish driver was pleased with his performance on tarmac, a surface he normally struggles on, saying: "I had a good feeling with the car, I enjoyed it and I felt relaxed in my driving. I had good confidence and my speed on this surface continues to improve."

Mikko Hirovnen recovered from mechanical problems to finish fifth.

Loeb, who had sealed his seventh successive world title earlier this month in his Citroen, triumphed by 35 seconds from the Citroen of Petter Solberg.

The Frenchman said: "We had no pressure for the championship on this event, so we were just able to drive as we wanted."

The final round of the WRC is in Great Britain next month.

Rally Spain results

1 Loeb, Citroen 3hr 32m 59.7s

2 P Solberg, Citroen + 35.3

3 Sordo, Citroen +41.1

4 Latvala, Ford + 1.19.5

5 Hirvonen, Ford +6.32.9

6 Wilson, Ford + 8.17.6

7 Al Qassimi, Ford +13.05.7

8 H Solberg, Ford +13.11.2