Abu Dhabi:After a difficult build-up to Rallye Deutschland, the UAE’s Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi is facing a stern test of his adaptability this weekend in one of the most awkward rounds of the World Rally Championship.
The ninth of 13 rounds in this year’s WRC series is also the first asphalt event of the season, and adding to the high degree of difficulty is the fact that the 371.92km of special stages spread over four days are run across three different types of sealed surfaces.
“This is a very challenging event, and if your concentration drops for a moment it can catch you out,” said Al Qasimi, before leaving the ceremonial start in Cologne on Thursday alongside British co-driver Scott Martin in his Abu Dhabi Citroën Total DS3.
“You have to have to be able to adapt quickly as the surface changes from one section to another. At the same time, while there are some very fast sections, there are also some extremely narrow and difficult stages, so it’s going to be an interesting weekend.”
The rally’s first two stages were following later, the second of these being run in darkness in front of a large part of the estimated 200,000 spectators who will follow the action up to the finish on Sunday afternoon.
After initially fearing he would miss his first tarmac rally for almost two years because of a hand injury, Al Qasimi is hoping the expertise of the Citroën team has put his Abu Dhabi-branded DS3 in perfect shape for its maiden journey on asphalt, despite limited time this week for testing.
Following him some time later into Wednesday’s shakedown over a 4.55km section between Konz and the municipality of Kommlingen was young Emirati driver Mohammed Al Mutawaa, making his WRC debut alongside Stephen McAuley in an Abu Dhabi Citroën DS3 R3 2WD.
Having won his big chance with Abu Dhabi Racing at a selection programme last November, Al Mutawaa is experiencing his first tarmac rally this weekend and wants to learn from every competitive kilometre.
Over the next three days Rallye Deutschland revolves around Trier, with 14 more Special Stages to be negotiated before the survivors reach the finish on Sunday.