WRC Skydive Dubai Rally Team's Al-Ketbi returns to WRC in Portugal
Vodafone Rally of Portugal, April 3-6
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), round 4
For immediate release
Tuesday, April 1st 2014
SKYDIVE DUBAI RALLY TEAM’S AL-KETBI
RETURNS TO WRC ACTION IN PORTUGAL.
· Al-Ketbi shakes down Ford Fiesta R5 with useful Fafe Rally Sprint run
· WRC 2 competition from Al-Attiyah, Al-Kuwari and Bin Eidan in Portugal
ALGARVE (Portugal): Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver Rashid Al-Ketbi and German co-driver Karina Hepperle return to FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) action at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally of Portugal (April 3-6).
The Dubai-based driver has been away from the WRC special stages since his premature departure with transmission problems from last year’s Rally of Spain. But Al-Ketbi was back behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 at last weekend’s Fafe Rally Sprint in northern Portugal, taking third place amongst the WRC 2 registered drivers in an event that was won by defending WRC champion Sébastien Ogier of France.
“We finished third of the WRC2 registered teams at the Fafe Rally Sprint and I was quite happy with this performance bearing in mind it was my first time back in the WRC since Spain last year,” said the Emirati who did take part in the Dubai International Rally last December.
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.
“I want to say a big thanks to Sheikh Hamdan for his continued support of my rallying programme and to Skydive Dubai, my sponsor. Now we can look forward to the first event in Portugal this week. Last year was a disappointing one for me in Portugal and it will not be easy this year with the strength of the entry, but Karina and I are well prepared and raring to go.”
The Portuguese event has attracted one of the strongest entries for some considerable time and Al-Ketbi faces fierce competition in the WRC 2 category. Championship leader Yuriy Protasov of the Ukraine heads the field in his Ford Fiesta R5, but the likes of Finland’s Jari Ketomaa, Ireland’s Robert Barrable and Sweden’s Fredrik Åhlin will be hoping to achieve the win.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari also return to the WRC for the first time this season in WRC 2 and Kuwaiti driver Salah bin Eidan teams up with new American navigator Alessandro Gelsomino.
The Fafe Rally Sprint was an ideal venue for Al-Ketbi to shake down his Ford Fiesta before the start of his WRC programme. In its third year, the event ran over a six-kilometre section of the Fafe-Lameirinha special stage, near Porto in the north of Portugal, and attracted an estimated 100,000 spectators.
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier heads to the Portuguese round of the WRC with an overall championship lead of just three points over Volkswagen Motorsport team mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Khalid Al-Qassimi is also entered with the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
The Vodafone Rally of Portugal gets underway on Thursday (April 3rd). After the traditional start at Estoril, near Lisbon, there will be an opening stage at Praco do Imperio close to the Jeronimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before the route ventures south towards the Algarve for three legs of gravel special stages in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro.
The first two each offer 246km of timed action and the third on Sunday runs for just 43.87 competitive kilometres. There will be a mid-day service break at the Algarve stadium between two identical loops of stages on Friday and Saturday.
The Rally of Portugal was first held in 1967 and was one of the founding events in the inaugural WRC in 1973. After losing its place in the calendar after bad weather ruined the 2001 event, rally officials moved the event from the north to the south of the country and it regained its slot in the calendar in 2007.
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UK mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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