Dubai: Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver Rashid Al Ketbi and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle made a solid start to their challenge for honours in the Swedish Rally, round two of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) on Friday.
Tackling sub-zero temperatures and treacherous conditions in their Skoda Fabia S2000, the pair tackled the opening timed super special stage in Karlstad on Thursday evening and the first of eight special stages across the icy wastelands of Sweden on Friday morning.
Al Ketbi settled into seventh through the short super special stage and headed for the second special stage in confident mood. He posted an impressive stage time of 11min 16.9sec to hold eighth position in WRC2.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qassimi fought back from an early setback as the conditions created havoc for some of the world’s top drivers.
Partnered by British co-driver Scott Martin in his Abu Dhabi Citroen Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC, Al Qassimi lost seven minutes when he was sucked into a snow bank on the first of Friday’s seven treacherous special stages.
Al Qassimi was among a succession of drivers who fell victim to the conditions as he dropped from his starting position of 19th to 39th. But he produced an immediate response, climbing four places up the field on the next stage and two more on the fourth special stage.
“It was a very bad start and just what I didn’t want, but conditions are very difficult and causing problems for a lot of drivers,” he said.
“I’ve just put that behind me now and will look to make up as much ground as I can.”
Fellow Emirati Al Ketbi, said: “This is a long, difficult and specialised rally and not one where you can afford to push too hard and take risks. The conditions are so different to those we are used to in the Middle East and this snow rally is a fantastic experience for me. Finishing and scoring points is the priority and I am not prepared to take risks and jeopardise that.”