x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bad day at the races leaves Abu Dhabi rally team inches from death

Two UAE drivers hurtle over cliffs on first day of Jordan Rally, but both are miraculously safe.

A Citroen DS3 R3 2WD driven by Mohammed Al Sahlawi was left teetering on the edge of the cliff after it careered off the racing line. AFP Photo
A Citroen DS3 R3 2WD driven by Mohammed Al Sahlawi was left teetering on the edge of the cliff after it careered off the racing line. AFP Photo

DUBAI // An Emirati rally driver has told of the moment his car careered over a cliff edge and plunged to the ground.

Abu Dhabi Racing's Majed Al Shamsi, was at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza N15 when he entered a blind corner, strayed from the racing line and lost control. The car hurtled over the sheer drop backwards, fell six metres, and came to rest on its roof.

Miraculously Mr Al Shamsi suffered only a slight shoulder knock while co-driver John Higgins escaped uninjured. The crash happened near the Dead Sea on the first day of the Jordan Rally, which ended on Saturday.

"We came into a sharp, blind corner to the left and I couldn't see the entry of the corner so I went a little bit wide," said Mr Al Shamsi. "In Jordan, the stages are really hard. If you go out of the line you're on the loose gravel and you lose the car, that's it.

"That's what happened. I tried to turn the car in but, no way - it just sped off the ridge and landed on the boot and then on the roof."

Mr Al Shamsi said the crash was the worst moment of his four-year rallying career.

"It wasn't a good feeling, I can tell you. I was just waiting for the impact and hoping for a soft landing. I had a minor knock on the shoulder and sore neck.

"This shows how safe the rally cars are with the roll cages and safety precautions that are taken within the teams just in case something like this happens. That's good to know."

Mr Al Shamsi was unable to continue in the rally because of the damage to the car, but the accident has not put him off rallying.

"If the car had been OK I would have gone again. Hopefully it will be restored before the next event in Lebanon in September."

Remarkably the crash was the second drama involving an Abu Dhabi Racing car on the same day and at the same point on the rally route.

A Citroen DS3 R3 2WD driven by Mohammed Al Sahlawi was left teetering on the edge of the cliff after it careered off the racing line. He and co-driver Alan Harryman feared the vehicle would topple over and crash to the ground. However race marshals and spectators came to the rescue and hauled the vehicle to safety.

Both drivers escaped uninjured. Afterwards Mr Al Sahlawi said he had been worried as he approached the blind corner and slowed down. He braked and the car came to a halt with the right-hand front tyre hanging over the edge.

"We just waited for someone to pull us back," he added. "We were scared we might fall off."

csimpson@thenational.ae