x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Qassimi's progression

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is hopeful of ending a promising first season of action in the World Rally Championship in style, at this weekend's Wales Rally GB.

Although the wet and cold conditions are unlikely to be to his liking, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is hopeful of ending a promising first season of action for the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi team in the World Rally Championship in style at this weekend's Wales Rally GB.

Qassimi has earned a top-10 finish in Rally Jordan and been dubbed 'King of the Jumps' - following big leaps in Sweden and Finland - and the Emirati is now looking to finish the year in style in the Welsh forests. And after second place in last week's Dubai International Rally - his only Middle East Rally Championship event of the year Qassimi is confident of building on that in Wales. "This will be my first WRC start in Great Britain and I recently had a two-day test to get used to the conditions," he said. "I do not really like wet weather rallies so it will be hard to adjust to the surface. It's very easy to slide, spin or go off in wet weather.

"This is my last event of a long year and it will be a great feeling to finish my first full season in the WRC. It's gone well, I love the car and I feel I'm progressing better than last year. "After nine events, I feel I'm now part of the team on merit. I've gained extra mileage, extra confidence, achieved some good results and generally lifted my pace. I've made many changes to my pace notes and all the time I'm developing my knowledge and experience," he added.

Qassimi is also hoping his teammates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, can win Ford a third consecutive manufacturers' title, although they face a tough task as they trail leaders Citroen by 11 points in the standings. "Anything's possible, anything can happen in a rally," Qassimi added. "It will be hard because Sebastien Loeb has won the championship now and is under no pressure. But the gap is only 11 points. Mikko won here last year and Jari-Matti was top five so it could be very close."

gcaygill@thenational.ae