ALGARVE, Portugal: Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver Rashid Al Ketbi and German co-driver Karina Hepperle finished 11th in the WRC 2 category after a punishing Vodafone Rally of Portugal, round four of the FIA World Rally Championship, which finished on the Algarve yesterday.
The Ford Fiesta R5 driver began the day in 13th in the hotly contested sub category of the world’s most prestigious rally championship and stayed clear of trouble through the remaining three gravel stages yesterday to get his 2014 WRC campaign off to a solid start.
“This rally was about finishing, learning and getting back into the swing of things after three months away,” said Al Ketbi.
“I had some minor problems with the brakes and the set-up on Friday and that cost me a fair amount of time, but my stage times improved after that and I was encouraged by this performance in tricky conditions on one of the most difficult rallies in the championship. I am very happy with this result.”
Defending WRC champion Sebastien Ogier headed into the final three special stages yesterday morning with a 38.1-second outright lead over Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, with Norway’s Mads Ostberg a further 48.6 seconds adrift.
Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi started the day in 15th.
Ogier noticeably eased his pace through SS14 and Jari-Matti Latvala set the quickest time, but the leading Frenchman headed to the Sao Bras de Alportel stage with a lead of 43.2 seconds over Hirvonen. Dani Sordo lost out on a potential top five finish when he retired his Hyundai after SS14.
Ogier ceded 7.8 seconds to Hirvonen through SS15 and began the final Power Stage with a lead of 35.4 seconds. There were no late dramas and the Frenchman, driving a Volkswagen Polo R WRC, held on to secure his 19th WRC win by the margin of 43.2 seconds. Hirvonen finished second and Ostberg was third. Al Qassimi completed the rally in 13th overall.
Ogier also gained three extra points by winning the final Power Stage and gave Volkswagen its eighth successive WRC win. “This is a rally I love to drive and I am delighted to be able to win. I had a really good tyre management and that was maybe the difference.”
Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah had regained the WRC 2 advantage from Finland’s Jari Ketomaa at the start of yesterday’s final three times tests. The Qatari took a lead of 11.2 seconds into the 13.83km of the 14th Loule stage. Qatari Abdulaziz Al Kuwari was eighth, Al Ketbi held 14th and Kuwait’s Salah bin Eidan was 19th.
Al Attiyah won the 14th timed test and extended his advantage to 15.6 seconds and Al-Ketbi retained his position with the 12th quickest time, but Ketomaa reduced Al-Attiyah’s lead in WRC 2 to 10.8 seconds heading into the final Power Stage. Al-Ketbi climbed to 12th.
A storming time by Al Attiyah in the last stage was sufficient for the Qatari to claim a 21.6-second win in the WRC 2 category over Ketomaa. Al-Ketbi climbed to 11th when Julien Maurin retired with alternator woes before the final stage.
The Skydive Dubai Rally Team is running in the 2014 WRC under the patronage of H H Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, and is promoting Dubai’s hosting of EXPO 2020.THE PENINSULA