x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Rocks and roll end Sheikh Khalid's involvement in WRC Acropolis Rally

The Emirati Abu Dhabi Citroen driver saw his hopes of scoring points at the Acropolis Rally come to a violent end on the second leg of the event.

Neither Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and his co-driver Scott Martin were hurt despite rolling his Abu Dhabi Citroen Car 100 metres into the start of Stage 9 at the Acroplis Rally in Greece yesterday. Courtesy Andre Lavadinho
Neither Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and his co-driver Scott Martin were hurt despite rolling his Abu Dhabi Citroen Car 100 metres into the start of Stage 9 at the Acroplis Rally in Greece yesterday. Courtesy Andre Lavadinho

Abu Dhabi Citroen's hopes of victory slim as Sordo trails leader Latvala in Acropolis Rally

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi saw his hopes of scoring points at the Acropolis Rally come to a violent end yesterday on the second leg of the event.

The Emirati driver had been running in ninth place on the sixth round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) when he rolled his Abu Dhabi Citroen car 100 metres into the start of Stage 9.

Neither he nor co-driver Scott Martin were hurt in the accident, but the damage to the roll cage of the Citroen was sufficient to ensure that he will not be able to return for today's final four stages, as is allowed under WRC rules.

It ended Sheikh Khalid's hopes of scoring points for the second successive WRC event after he had finished ninth in Portugal last time out.

It had proven to be a tough day for the Emirati before his roll.

Starting the day in eighth place, he lost time immediately as he spun twice on the opening stage of the day, Stage 3, to lose around 30 seconds.

He had said after that incident, but before his event-ending crash: "It was very slippery, and we spun at two of the corners. It's pretty rough out there, and not easy on a stage like that to get my confidence back.

"The car is new and we have a lot to do to adjust it for my driving style. It's a very sensitive car. You need to be sure about what you are doing because it can catch you out.

"One small change can make a big difference.

"But we have a fantastic team and we'll get there."

At the front of the field, Abu Dhabi Citroen's hopes of a third victory of the season appear to be waning as second-placed Dani Sordo trails by more than a minute going into the final day.

The Spaniard drove cautiously yesterday as many of his rivals suffered punctures and other problems on the rocky Greek terrain, and he finished yesterday's 10th and last stage 74 seconds behind the leader Jari-Matti Latvala.

Sordo told wrc. com: "I tried to control the punctures and the problems."

Latvala, a former teammate of Sheikh Khalid at Ford between 2008 and 2011, is on target for his first victory for Volkswagen, setting the fastest time on four of yesterday's eight stages.

Despite his dominance, the Finn said he is not taking anything for granted.

"It was a solid performance and the VW team did good work in changing some parts," he said.

"But we must remember this is the Acropolis and there could still be drama tomorrow," he added.

Thierry Neuville is fourth and on target for a first WRC podium. He is ahead of Ford teammate Nasser Al Attiyah, the Qatari driver.

Neuville said of his tactics: "We made no mistakes and we didn't push in the bad places. I'm happy with myself and we showed we can be clever sometimes."

It was another frustrating day for Abu Dhabi Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen, despite the Finn moving up the order from 17th overnight to be eighth and on track for four championship points.

He suffered tyre problems as he twice broke a wheel rim, hindering his chances of making up further ground.

Hirvonen, who is third in the title standings, does have the consolation of being ahead of the championship leader Sebastien Ogier.

The Frenchman was unable to complete Stage 1 yesterday due to mechanical problems but recovered today to move up to 10th place, more than 10 minutes behind Volkswagen teammate Latvala.

* Agency

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