Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi

Jordan, 2 April:  Team Abu Dhabi driver, Sheikh Khaled Al Qassimi and co-driver Michael Orr provided the Middle Eastern rally spectators with some gripping action today on the first stages of the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) in Jordan. The Emirati ace took the rally by storm, winning all but one of the morning’s stages and retaining a slender lead at the head of the pack to keep a 30 second advantage over his nearest rival and fighting off adversary for the MERC Championship, Nasser Al Attiyah.

The opening stages of the MERC presented a demanding test of rally skills as loose gravel, unmarked roads, and large rocks makes Jordan Rally one of the toughest rounds. Having won the rally in 2007 and grown up rallying in desert conditions, Al Qassimi has the experience and capability to deliver on such tough landscape.

Commenting on the morning’s activities Al Qassimi said: “The stages are fast and the corners are difficult to see, but I am pleased with how we have done so far. It is fantastic to compete so close to my home in Abu Dhabi and with the support of my Middle Eastern fans. The enthusiasm at the Service Park and out on stages provides a real boost to my confidence.”

Joining Al Qassimi in the Jordanian desert are his four Emirati team mates, Bader Al Jabri, Majed Al Shamsi, Sultan Al Amri and Khalil Al Shaikh, all flying the flag for Abu Dhabi and hoping to provide the emirate with impressive results of their own. The four young drivers have earned their places in Team Abu Dhabi through their performances in Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s (ADTA) Junior Driver Development Programme, designed to nurture Emirati talent and create the next rally champion. After a tough morning in the rocky desert, all four have provided solid performances that place Al Jabri 9th, Al Shamsi in 11th, Al Amri 17 and Al Shaikh 18.

“This impressive start to the rally is a sign of how hard the Team Abu Dhabi juniors have been working on the development of their skills and techniques. To see them recording fast times and approaching each stage with such maturity is a credit to both the Development Programme, and their fans,” commented Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General ADTA. “ADTA look forward to seeing how they improve across the rest of the season and providing Team Abu Dhabi fans with some home champions when Rally Abu Dhabi is run at the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, competing in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) that runs alongside the MERC, the Abu Dhabi backed World Rally Team, BP Ford Abu Dhabi, currently hold the lead by a slim 4.7 seconds. Jari-Matti Latvala completed the opening stages without problem, however, team mate Mikko Hirvonen has been less fortunate and was forced to retire for the day with a broken suspension.

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