WRC Skydive Dubai Rally Team's Al-Ketbi heads to Portugal to continue WRC2 challenge
Vodafone Rally of Portugal
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), round 4
For immediate release
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
SKYDIVE DUBAI RALLY TEAM’S RASHID AL-KETBI HEADS TO
PORTUGAL TO CONTINUE CHALLENGE FOR WRC2 HONOURS
· Al-Ketbi faces strong Portuguese WRC2 entry on the Algarve
· Frenchman Ogier aims to continue his WRC dominance in Portugal
ALGARVE (Portugal): Skydive Dubai Rally Team (UAE) driver Rashid Al-Ketbi and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle continue their challenge for honours in the FIA World Rally Championship at the Vodafone Rally of Portugal this weekend (April 9-14).
The Emirati driver is chasing honours in the WRC2 category and began his campaign of tackling the European rounds of the series strongly by sealing fourth and eighth positions in Monte Carlo and Sweden – two of the most specialised and demanding rallies in the world.
Al-Ketbi arrived in Portugal last Friday and carried out two days of testing on the winding southern Portuguese gravel tracks on Sunday and Monday, before starting his reconnaissance of the special stages today (Tuesday).
“The first two rallies were very different to anything I have been used to in the Middle East,” admitted the Skydive Dubai driver, who uses a Skoda Fabia S2000 in WRC2. “We had ice and snow and very slippery roads in Monte Carlo and then a true snow rally in Sweden, with temperatures colder than you can ever imagine coming from the Gulf area.
“This rally in Portugal is the first of the gravel rallies that I will be competing in and closer to the type of terrain that I am used to racing on. The goal is to reach the finish, but it is also important to score as many points as possible.”
The Vodafone Rally of Portugal is one of the most popular rounds of the WRC and has attracted a superb entry. Two of Al-Ketbi’s fiercest challenges are sure to come from the German Sepp Wiegand and the flying Finn Esapekka Lappi in a pair of Skodas. Wiegand won the WRC2 category on the snow and ice of Monte Carlo and leads the WRC2 series by three points from Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov, while Lappi is one of the quickest young gravel drivers around.
With Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi being forced to rest his back after a heavy landing during the recent Ha’il Rally in Saudi Arabia, Al-Ketbi will also be looking to be the first Arab driver home. Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari – winner of WRC2 in Mexico - and Jordan’s Ala’a Rasheed will also be hoping to show well, as three Arab drivers line-up in WRC2 for the first time.
At the top of the field, Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier is the clear leader of the series after three rounds and will start as the favourite, although the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, led by Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo, will be keen to redress the balance after losing out by Volkswagen in Mexico. The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is also competing with the Citroën team and Polish former Formula One driver Robert Kubica features on the entry list.
The Skydive Dubai Rally Team is running in the 2013 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.
Reconnaissance of the special stages finishes on Wednesday (April 10th) and practice, qualifying and the shakedown stage precede the traditional ceremonial start on Thursday.
Three days of rally action gets underway from the Algarve on Friday morning (April 12th). Crews tackle 15 timed tests, including a super special stage in Imperio Square in Lisbon, in a competitive route of 386.7km.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s action is centred around the Algarve region to the south and the event draws to a close with the podium finish at the Algarve stadium from 15.40hrs on Sunday afternoon. Saturday is the longest day of the event and includes a new combination of special stages.
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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