Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qassimi is targeting a victory on his return to Middle East action in Kuwait next month after suffering a disappointing exit from Rally Sweden in his first World Championship outing for 16 months.
Al Qassimi and British co-driver Scott Martin, in their Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC, were denied a reward for their climb through the field in Sweden by a third leg setback, which put them out of the event on Saturday night.
But within a few hours the Emirati driver was already planning ahead for the Kuwait International Rally, second round of the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship on March 21-23, where he will be looking to go one better after his second-place finish in Qatar last month.
“For sure we will be looking for a win in Kuwait,” said Al Qassimi, who was flying home from Sweden overnight, and looking forward to the warm UAE winter sunshine after the sub-zero temperatures of the last week.
“I have already sat down with the team to put together a strategy for Kuwait where we will be doing as much testing as possible to make sure we are as well prepared as we can be.”
After a second day slide into a snow bank sent him plummeting down the field in Rally Sweden, Al Qassimi showed his determination by fighting back from that disappointment and, half-way through Saturday’s third leg, he had risen 20 places to 19th in his Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3 WRC.
But Al Qassimi, who scored a top-ten finish in Rally Sweden on his last visit two years ago, went off the road on a treacherous corner on special stage 15, and was unable to start the final leg because of an overheated engine.
“It’s a real shame, because I had found decent pace,” he said. “The stages were quicker than Friday, and I felt good. I knew that if I’d continued I might have been able to finish higher, maybe in the top 12, and I’ve been happy with that after the bad start I had on Friday.
“But these things happen. The last time I was in a World Rally Car in a WRC event was October 2011 and now I have a new team and a new car, and the conditions in Sweden are never easy for me. But I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
With four stages remaining in Rally Sweden ahead of the finish in Karlstad, nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb was still fighting to produce a second successive WRC win for the new partnership between Abu Dhabi Racing and Citroën.
Monte Carlo Rally winner Loeb, in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team DS3 WRC, was 22.2 seconds behind Sebastien Ogier.