x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sheikh Khalid's Greece lightning

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver secures his best result in the World Rally Championship at the Acropolis Rally.

Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi finished a career-high sixth in the Acropolis Rally.
Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi finished a career-high sixth in the Acropolis Rally.

Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi secured his best result in the World Rally Championship at the Acropolis Rally today finishing sixth. Sheikh Khalid's BP Ford Abu Dhabi teammate Mikko Hirvonen won the rally to reignite the battle for this year's drivers' championship with the leader Sebastien Loeb. The Finnish driver produced a near faultless drive through the toughest conditions of the season to clinch victory in the seventh leg of the World Rally Championship and move within seven points of the French world champion. Hirvonen, 28, carried a comfortable lead into Sunday's final five stages, and kept out of trouble to finish 1 min 12.9 sec ahead of Frenchman Sebastien Ogier in a Citroen C4. The win was the eighth of Hirvonen's WRC career and ended a victory drought that extended back to Rally Japan in 2008. After four second-place finishes this year, a perfect 10 point finish sees Hirvonen breathing down the neck of Loeb, who crashed out of this rally on Saturday. "It really did look very difficult at the start but it worked out OK ? a perfect weekend!" said Hirvonen. "It's been a clever drive with no mistakes and no punctures. We thought before this event that if you get through without any problems you'll be OK. "It's great for the team. Now we're back in the game again ? the timing couldn't have been better!" Ogier was left celebrating his first ever WRC podium finish. "Perfect!" said the Frenchman. "This weekend was all about conservation. We made no mistakes and we looked after the car and the tyres. Just one puncture all weekend and the car has run perfectly. "I couldn't have hoped for a better result that this." Hirvonen's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala finished third, 32.1 secs off Ogier's C4, to conclude a remarkable salvage job after going off the road on Friday. Latvala's efforts earned BP Ford Abu Dhabi a maximum 18 points in the manufacturers' championship, and the Finn was left musing his team's march on Citroen. "Things can turn around quite quickly," he said. "It was important for me to get this result, because now we have a better chance against Citroen. "It's my second podium in a row, so that's a positive too. The next rounds in Poland and Finland are important for me and the team ? I want to do better there."

* AFP