x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Qassimi can't wait to get behind wheel

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is aiming to maintain his excellent World Rally Championship campaign with another strong showing in Finland.

Al Qassimi has finished in the top eight standings four times and is keen to improve on his best sixth-place finish with some help from his teammates and local favourites, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.
Al Qassimi has finished in the top eight standings four times and is keen to improve on his best sixth-place finish with some help from his teammates and local favourites, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is aiming to maintain his excellent World Rally Championship campaign with another strong showing and a points finish at this weekend's event in Finland. The Emirati driver has finished in the top eight placings four times this season, but achieved the best result of his career at the Acropolis Rally in Greece last month with a sixth place in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi car.

Having sat out the last round in Poland, Al Qassimi is raring to go and put in a strong performance at Rally Finland, which begins on Friday and runs until Sunday. "Finland will be another great test," Al Qassimi said. "It's always an incredible experience with some extremely technical stages, and if we can do well it will really show the progress we are making." The pressure and the limelight will be off Al Qassimi for the ninth round of the championship as all attention will be on his two Finnish teammates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, in their home event.

Hirvonen leads the title race by just one point from the Citroen of Sebastien Loeb, while Latvala will be desperate to impress after crashing out on the final super stage in Poland when poised for second place. But Al Qassimi's only concern is his own performance and he adds: "After missing Rally Poland, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel to try to build on the points we won in Greece.  "We will try to rise to the occasion but always remembering it is a three-day event and consistency will be key to success."

Joining Al Qassimi in Finland are the Abu Dhabi junior drivers, who will be taking part in the fourth stage of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy international (FSTi). The three drivers, Majed Al Shamsi, Ahmed Al Mansoori and Bader Al Jabri, have been helped and guided by Al Qassimi since they joined the Abu Dhabi Junior Driver Development Programme three years ago. The trio are keen to impress their mentor in Finland.

Al Shamsi, who finished second in Poland, said: "I was thrilled to finish in second position in Poland and only hope to be able to replicate or better that in Finland. "The added benefit for us this week is that we have Khalid to draw inspiration from, and we all hope to prove we have got what it takes to win the FSTi". gcaygill@thenational.ae