x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Tough task awaits the Ford team

So, after 14 rounds accumulating in 4,805km, BP-Ford Abu Dhabi's season comes down to the final 353km to be raced through the woodlands of Cardiff and Swansea in South Wales over the next three days.

CARDIFF // So, after 14 rounds accumulating in 4,805km, BP-Ford Abu Dhabi's season comes down to the final 353km to be raced through the woodlands of Cardiff and Swansea in South Wales over the next three days. Put simply, in order to win the manufacturers' Championship for a third successive time they need to fill the first two places and hope that one of the two Citroens - one driven by the world champion Sebastien Loeb, the other by Daniel Sordo - does not finish in the top eight.

It sounds a tall order for the two Ford drivers, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, but they have already had three one-two finishes this year including one at the last round in Japan. The biggest problem they will have is hoping that one of the Citroen drivers hits trouble to prevent them scoring points, thus giving Ford a chance to prevent their rivals from complementing Loeb's drivers' championship with the manufacturers.

But Latvala is confident. "This race is very important for the team and it will be difficult for us but these conditions are very challenging so anything can happen in a rally like this," he said. The UAE's very own Khalid al Qassimi will be finishing his first full season and although not expected to pull up any Welsh trees here he is, rally by rally, gaining more experience and with it more confidence, which augurs well for next year when, as the Abu Team announced yesterday, the same three drivers will compete.

Valentino Rossi, the MotoGP motorcycling champion, has taken up the offer from the Stobart team to race. It will be the Italian's third rally apperance. "I will take it slowly to start with and build up my speed stage by stage so that I can get a good feeling of the car," he said. @Email:cwhebell@thenational.ae