BATTLING AL QASSIMI KEEPS TARGET IN HIS SIGHTS IN SARDINIA
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Abu Dhabi, UAE, 22 June, 2013: As the Rally d'ItaliaSardegna continued to punish the world’s best drivers today, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi kept up the fight to match his best performance of the season in the World Rally Championship.
After completing half of the final leg’s eight special stages, Al Qassimi and British co-driver Scott Martin held 10th position in the seventh round of this year’s WRC series in their Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3.
The Emirati driver, who finished ninth in the Rally de Portugal two months ago, had not given up hope of equalling that result as en event which has again proved to be one of the toughest in the WRC calendar headed for its night finish.
Hirvonen’s car was undamaged, but remained stuck in a ditch almost within sight of the start, and he retired shortly afterwards. That left WRC leader Sebastien Ogier holding a 1 min 15.9 secs advantage over Belgian Thierry Neuville in second place.
Al Qassimi, meanwhile, was continuing to battle through what has been a particularly challenging event, his first since the crash which put him out of the Acropolis Rally in Greece last month.
On Friday, the summer solstice, traditionally the longest day of the year, he had been forced to start first, and after leaving the port of Olbia at 6.30am did not drive into parc fermé at the end of the leg until 11.15pm, long after the sun had set.
Finishing the day in 11th position, Al Qassimi said: “It wasn’t easy to sweep the racing line by being first on the road. But after I went off at the Acropolis Rally I was really looking to rebuild my confidence. I didn’t change the set-up of the car because I just wanted to drive without taking any risks.”
By the time the cars reached the service regrouping after completing four of today’s eight special stages, Al Qassimi had climbed to tenth place.
"It’s faster than yesterday, but bumpier as well,” he said. “The loose sand mix is unpredictable so the car is sliding a lot. At least I can see the braking lines today, but I’m not pushing. It’s difficult to find the confidence, but it will come.”