WRC Solid start for Skydive Dubai's Rashid Al-Ketbi in Rally of Portugal
Vodafone Rally of Portugal
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), round 4
For immediate release
Friday, April 12th, 2013
SKYDIVE DUBAI RALLY TEAM’S RASHID AL-KETBI
STARTS STRONGLY IN FIRST PORTUGUESE STAGE
· Early WRC2 category lead for Finn Lappi; Welshman Evans in third place
· Frenchman Ogier draws first WRC blood for Volkswagen in Portugal
· UAE’s Al-Qassimi and Qatar’s Al-Attiyah shine brightly on the Algarve
ALGARVE (Portugal): Skydive Dubai Rally Team (UAE) driver Rashid Al-Ketbi and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle started brightly in the hotly-contested WRC2 category through the opening 20.32km Mu stage of the Vodafone Rally of Portugal on Friday.
Faced with fierce competition from 27 of the world’s finest drivers, it was never going to be easy for the Emirati on the tricky Portuguese gravel stages, where thousands of spectators gathered to witness the start of three days of action.
“The crowds out on the stages are amazing,” said Al-Ketbi, who drives an EXPO 2020-backed Skoda Fabia S2000 and recorded an opening stage time of 14min 27sec. “Rallying is such a popular sport here in Portugal and it is incredible to see so many people lining the roads. I just wanted to make a clean start. There is a long way to go before the finish on Sunday.”
Finn Esapekka Lappi held the slender early advantage in the WRC2 category at the wheel of a factory Skoda Fabia. German Sepp Wiegand had set the target WRC2 time of 13min 37.0sec and was second, while Welshman Elfyn Evans was classified in third before the second 18.32km Ourique special stage. Both specials were repeated on Friday afternoon before crews headed to the capital Lisbon for a super special stage on Friday evening.
Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari was classified 6.4 seconds behind Al-Ketbi and Jordan’s Ala’a Rasheed was also entered in the category but was racing further down the running order.
Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier began the event with an overall lead of 31 points in the Drivers’ Championship and his Portuguese challenge got underway with the quickest time in the Mu special. Norway’s Mads Ostberg was second.
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo of Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo were third and fifth. Sordo had qualified fastest on Thursday and opted to start the event from 13th in the running order to benefit from a smoother gravel stage surface on the first runs through the specials.
The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi was running fourth on the road. He started brightly and recorded the 12th quickest time of 13min 30.7sec. Polish former Formula One driver Robert Kubica was running well in WRC2 and Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah was 11th.
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, and is backing the UAE’s bid for EXPO 2020.
Saturday’s action (April 13th) is centred around the Algarve region to the south and is the longest day of the event, which reaches a conclusion at the Algarve stadium on Sunday afternoon. Teams will tackle a pair of runs through the Santana de Serra, Cascao and Loule stages, running for 31.12km, 25.37km and 22.78km, respectively.
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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