Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi won the Abu Dhabi Rally, a candidate event for next year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), in dominating fashion yesterday.
Sheikh Khalid dominated the event from day one, going fastest in the super special stage held on Thursday night at the North Handling area of the iconic Yas Marina Circuit, the home of the Etihad Airways Formula One Grand Prix.
Yesterday, Sheikh Khalid opened his campaign at the Ghantoot 1 special stage over 18.71km, finishing 25.9 seconds ahead of his closest rival and over one minute ahead of the new overnight leader, Abu Dhabi Racing junior driver Mohamed al-Mutawaa.
From there on, Sheikh Khalid was in top form, winning all of yesterday’s stages and storming to victory in a total time of 1 hour 24 minutes 33.8 seconds, 3:05.3 minutes ahead of Sheikh Abdullah al-Qassimi in second with Qatar’s Abdullah al-Kuwari 9:11.9 further back in third overall.
“I would like to thank each and every member of the organizing body; the organization of the Rally was first class. The stages were exciting and technically demanding in places, but thankfully we didn’t face any major obstacles and won first place,” Sheikh Khalid said. “I would like to thank the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi Rally Team for their consummate professionalism as always in preparing the cars to the highest standards. I would like to add that I am very happy for the Abu Dhabi Racing junior team who I thought performed very well in stages and we are looking to enroll them in numerous future rallies so that they can gain even more experience.”
“It was an exciting rally today; we did our best to win but unfortunately our tires did not perform well here in Abu Dhabi despite being tested at Rally Jordan,” second-placed Sheikh Abdullah said.
Qatar’s al-Kuwari said: “We have really enjoyed the rally and its exciting stages despite the hot weather. The organization was outstanding as were the spectators. I would like to thank Sheikh Khalid and the organizing committee who delivered a fantastic Rally for all involved.”
Abu Dhabi Racing drivers Mohamed al-Mutawaa, Mansoor Belhelei, Mohamed al-Sahlawi and Saeed Bintouq finished fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
The event, jointly organized by Yas Motor Racing Club and Abu Dhabi Racing, run over 453.48km with 153.44km as the competitive distance over nine stages and the remainder as the liaison distance, drew a total of 15 cars.
Organising Committee chairman Ahmed al-Kaabi said: “I would like to thank everyone in the organizing team, for their efforts in making the rally happen. Obviously safety is our top priority at Yas Marina Circuit and thanks to the efforts of the team the rally was a huge success. We are looking forward to organizing the Abu Dhabi Rally next year and for it to becoming a permanent of the Middle East Rally Competition rounds.”
1. Sheikh Khalid al-Qassimi / C. Patterson (Citroën DS3 RRC) 1:24:33.8
2. Sheikh Abdulla al-Qassimi / S. Lancaster (Ford Fiesta RRC) +3:05.3
3. Abdulla al-Kuwari / A. Mohamed (Mitsubishi Evo 10) +9:11.9
4. Mohamed al-Mutawaa / S. Mcauley (Citroën DS3 R3) +10:49.1
5. Mansoor Belhelei / K. al-Kendi (Citroën DS3 R3) +14:45.7
6. Mohammed al-Shalawi / G. Parry (Citroën DS3 R3) +14:52.7
7. Saeed Bintouq / A. Harryman (Citroën DS3 R3) +15:59.8