x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi gets on the WRC scoreboard in Portugal

It was the Emirati driver's first point finish in World Rally Championship since 2011 as frenchman Sebastien Ogier earns his third WRC win of season and still stands atop standings.

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi finished ninth at Rally Portugal on Sunday to pick up his first WRC points of the season. Andre Lavadinho
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi finished ninth at Rally Portugal on Sunday to pick up his first WRC points of the season. Andre Lavadinho

Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi picked up his first World Rally Championship (WRC) points of the season on Sunday with his ninth-place finish in Rally Portugal.

It was the Emirati driver's first points finish since he was fifth in Australia in September 2011 and his first since linking up with Abu Dhabi Citroen team this year.

Sheikh Khalid delivered an impressive performance after coming under intense pressure from last year's Rally de Portugal winner, Norway's Mads Ostberg.

Lying fifth in the WRC drivers' standings after the first three rounds, Ostberg had led the event on the first day before rolling his Ford Fiesta.

After later restarting the rally well down the field, the Norwegian launched a spectacular drive to get back among the points, and won three of today's four stages to eventually climb above Sheikh Khalid into the top 10.

But Ostberg's charge seemed only to boost the UAE driver.

Sheikh Khalid produced a great surge of his own on the last two stages to move past Finland's Esapekka Lappi, while he gained another place when the Ford Fiesta of the Dutchman Dennis Kuipers failed to start the last stage.

It was Sheikh Khalid's third top-10 finish in Portugal, following his eighth position in 2009 and ninth in 2010, and he will now look to build on this result, with seven more WRC outings to follow with the Abu Dhabi Citroen team.

The Frenchman Sebastien Ogier survived a last-day mechanical scare in his Volkswagen Polo to score his third WRC victory of the season and increase his lead in the drivers' championship.

He won by 58.2 seconds from Finland's Mikko Hirvonen in a Citroen Abu Dhabi DS3, with Ogier's teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala, finishing third.

Ogier's car developed clutch problems, and he was forced to stop briefly on Stage 12 to fix the problem.

But such was his margin over the rest of the field that he was able to restart still in the lead.

The Frenchman told wrc.com: "Everything seemed OK but I was very careful in there. I was very smooth with the amount of torque I put on the clutch. At the start I just crossed my fingers and then did my job."

Mikko Hirvonen was the lead Abu Dhabi Citroen car, in second place.

He acknowledged that his own problems had left him unable to launch a stronger challenge to Ogier.

"He was back up to a steady pace and I still needed to be so careful on my tyres," he said.

The next event for Sheikh Khalid is the third round of the Middle East Rally Championship in Jordan, May 9 to May 11, before he returns to WRC action in the Acropolis Rally in Greece from May 31 to June 2.

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