Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi picked up his best result of the season yesterday as he finished eighth in Rally Germany.
Al Qassimi surprised by eighth in Germany
Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi picked up his best result of the season yesterday as he finished eighth in Rally Germany. The Emirati took advantage of retirements ahead of him and a consistent pace during the final five stages of the 19-stage tarmac event to finish in the championship points in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi car, 17 minutes behind Sebastien Loeb, the rally winner, in his Citroen.
The result was a surprise for al Qassimi, who had spun on Friday and lost a lot of time, but he was pleased with what he and the team had accomplished. "After we spun on our first day I never thought we would end up in eighth position," he said. "We had a lot of time to make up, but we had no problems for the rest of the event and pushed whenever we could." Al Qassimi had begun the day in 11th place, but overtook Mark Van Eldik and Ken Block on the first stage of the day to move upto ninth. Not content with a slim 3.3 second lead, the Abu Dhabi driver went on to again record faster times than Van Eldik in all four of the day's remaining stages, as technical problems forced Block into retirement.
Mechanical issues also saw Mikko Hirvonen, his Ford teammate, pull out of the competition, pushing al Qassimi into eighth, which he held until the chequered flag at the final Circus Maximus Super Special Stage in the heart of Trier. "When we came in for the morning service I was pleased with the way I had driven, but knew I couldn't be complacent," al Qassimi added. "With eighth place in his sights as well, Van Eldik was pushing just as hard. It was essential that we kept focused to develop an even bigger time gap and keep our road position."
At the front, Loeb's success was his eighth in a row in Germany as he strengthened his position at the top of the championship as he targets his seventh successive title. The Frenchman finished 51.3 seconds ahead of Spain's Dani Sordo, with fellow Frenchman Sebastien Ogier in third, in a podium cleansweep for Citroen. "It was a perfect weekend for Citroen in a place that is very important for us," said Olivier Quesnel, the Citroen team boss. "To win eight times here is incredible."
The victory was Loeb's fifth this season and he said: "It is a rally where we have always enjoyed success. I was very comfortable with the car, everything worked well and so another one in Germany. It's brilliant." Sordo had pressed Loeb hard on the opening day, but admitted he had been powerless to stop his teammate. "Everyone is impressed with what Seb has done, he is going to be champion for the seventh time and he won here for the eighth time," he said.
In a rally Loeb led from beginning to end, BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala finished fourth, while Citroen privateer Petter Solberg completed the top five places. Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena now have 191 points in the drivers' championship, 58 points clear of Ogier, their closest rival. If Loeb wins the next round in Japan, to be held next month, and Ogier finishes sixth or lower then Loeb will seal the championship there.