x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Plenty of positive signs for the future

I have been working with the three members of Team Abu Dhabi's Junior rally who have been in action in the recent Rally of Lebanon. It was a great learning experience for all of them and I spent a lot of time advising them and trying to pass on some of the experience that I have.

I have been working with the three members of Team Abu Dhabi's Junior rally who have been in action in the recent Rally of Lebanon. It was a great learning experience for all of them and I spent a lot of time advising them and trying to pass on some of the experience that I have. The conditions for the Lebanon rally are unlike anywhere else in the Middle East. There are mountains, very narrow roads and difficult terrain and I felt that it would be very good for our three young drivers to get experience of this.

They were very keen to learn and it's all part of their development as rally drivers. I feel that the young Abu Dhabi drivers emerged from the Rally of Lebanon, which finished earlier this week, with great credit. I was particularly happy with the performance of Majed al-Shamsi, who is showing the most promise and could have an excellent future in rallying in my opinion. Shamsi came first in the Two class and he handled the conditions very well, given that he has never driven a rally car in such terrain.

His teammate Mansour al-Swuaidi was a bit unlucky because he had to withdraw from the rally at the end of the first day after developing engine trouble in his car. Our third driver Khalil Sheikh finished outside the top 20, but I think all of them should be proud of themselves and what they achieved during the event. Our drivers are still very young and taking part in the Rally of Lebanon, which involved tackling a challenging 270 kms over three days, is no mean feat and can only help their development.

They are now preparing to travel to Britain - Wales to be precise - where they will take part in a smaller rally in Swansea on July 15 and 16. It is not a particularly important rally, but it will give them experience of new conditions, particularly driving in forests under cloudy skies and it will be a unique opportunity for the team. The Swansea rally is only 100 km long, but at this stage it's not about competing in headline events for our junior team, but about gaining experience of different kinds of conditions. It will hold them in good stead in the future.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to South Wales with the team because I will be busy preparing for the latest round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in Finland which starts on July 31. It also marks the first anniversary of the partnership between Abu Dhabi and BP Ford and I think we have a lot to celebrate because it has been very good for rallying in the UAE. I took part in last year's Finland rally when I finished 16th. This time, I feel more prepared and believe that I will be better equipped to drive in Finnish conditions. It's a very tough rally, lots of crests and fast corners.

Unfortunately, I am still tied up with media commitments in Lebanon and want to get back to the UAE as soon as possible so that I can begin my physical preparations for the rally in Finland. I know a lot of people from the Gulf region come to Lebanon for their holidays at this time of year, but for me it's been strictly work. Rallying takes up nearly all of my time and I cannot wait to go on holiday myself once the WRC season is over in November.

@Email:sports@thenational.ae