Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi has told the four young Emirati drivers contesting the FIA Middle East Rally Championship with Abu Dhabi Racing to keep their feet on the ground in the build-up to the second round of this year’s regional series in Kuwait.
Al Qassimi has urged Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, Mohammed Al Mutawaa, Bader Al Jabri and Majid Al Shamsi to put trophies and titles to the back of their minds and concentrate on finishing events to build experience.
He said: “We’re creating new opportunities for young Emirati drivers in international motor sport and one of the first lessons for all of them is that you have to work hard to make an impact. Success doesn’t come overnight.”
“Every driver who gets behind the wheel of a rally car wants to win but you have to take things one step at a time in this sport. The first priority must be to get in a habit of protecting your car and finishing events.”
While Al Qassimi will be aiming for outright victory in Kuwait – running 21-23 March – after his second place finish in Qatar, rally newcomers Al-Sahlawi and Al Mutawaa compete again in the Young Driver and 2WD classes, with Al Jabri and Al Shamsi contesting Group N.
After a difficult opening leg in Qatar where he suffered a series of punctures forcing his retirement, Al Sahlawi took advantage of the super rally rule to re-start the event on the second leg and went on to top the Young Driver and 2WD categories on his rallying debut.
“I made a lot of mistakes on the first day because I didn’t pay attention to the sharp rocks on the stages,” said Al-Sahlawi, partnered by Irish co-driver Alan Harryman in one of the team’s two Citroën DS3 R3 2WDs.
“On the second day I changed my driving style and didn’t have a single puncture. I learnt from my mistakes and now I’m looking forward to Kuwait. It won’t be easy and I still have to work hard to be able to respond faster to my co-driver reading the pace notes.”
After leading the Young Driver and 2WD classes at the end of the first leg in Qatar, Al Mutawaa went out the following morning after rolling his Citroën DS3 R3. Both he and Irish co-driver Stephen McAuley were unhurt, and Al Mutawaa said: “I know how to handle a car and the most difficult thing for me, coming from circuit racing into rallying, is to get the pace notes right”.
“I got the notes wrong in Qatar and went too fast into a jump on a tight left corner. The car lifted off, landed on the front right wheel and rolled four times. It was disappointing because the first day was perfect. I have to learn from my mistakes and I will.”
Al-Sahlawi and Al Mutawaa earned their chance with Abu Dhabi Racing by winning through a three-day Citroën Racing-supported selection programme at Yas Marina Circuit last December.