Karlstad, Sweden: Skydive Dubai Rally Team (UAE) driver Rashid Al Ketbi and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle flew the UAE flag with pride and survived the rigours of the Swedish Rally, finishing eighth in the WRC2 category in one of the most demanding events in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.
The performance meant that Al Ketbi was the only Emirati driver to complete the event after Shaikh Khalid Al Qassimi’s Citroen DS3 WRC succumbed to engine problems after an accident on Saturday evening.
Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the snowy stages and the treacherously slippery road surfaces — even with the permitted metal-studded tyres — the Emirati Skoda Fabia S2000 driver kept his composure to secure more valuable points in his quest for the WRC2 title.
After slipping to 10th in the WRC2 category mid-way through Saturday’s daunting special stages, Al Ketbi was able to adjust his stage pace and begin a climb back through the field. By the end of SS16, he had moved back up and survived the rigours of yesterday’s remaining six stages to confirm his top-10 finish.
“I knew from the start that this was going to be a tough rally where mistakes would be costly,” said Al Ketbi. “The goal was to finish and I managed to do that and score some points as well. It was a really useful learning curve for me to come here and compete in these conditions and it puts me in a good position for the next rally in the championship.”
The Skydive Dubai Rally Team is running in the 2013 WRC under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council.
Sweden’s Anders Grøndal began the final leg with a slender 4.5-second advantage over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, with Germany’s Sepp Wiegand in third position. The Swede and the Saudi were locked in a tussle over the closing stages before Al Rajhi snatched a victory after the 22nd stage by 43.5 seconds. Wiegand finished third.
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier started the event’s remaining six stages leading the event outright by 26.9 seconds, as he stayed on course to give Volkswagen Motorsport their first ever win with the Polo WRC.
Defending FIA world rally champion Sebastien Loeb attacked over the first few stages and finished second, 41.8 seconds behind Ogier, in his Citroen Total Abu Dhabi DS3 WRC. Loeb continues to lead the drivers’ championship.
Al Qassimi lost considerable time in a snow bank on day one and then suffered radiator damage after an accident on Saturday. He was unable to start the final day after suffering engine damage.