Skydive Dubai Rally Teamâ€™s Rashid Al-Ketbi set to debut new Ford Fiesta R5 in Germany
Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver Rashid Al-Ketbi and German co-driver Karina Hepperle are set to debut their brand new Ford Fiesta R5 in this weekend’s ADAC Rally Deutschland, round nine of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The event starts in Cologne for the first time on Thursday afternoon (August 22nd).
The duo managed to shake down the new M-Sport-built car at a test session near Nancy in France last week and Al-Ketbi is delighted with the results. “It’s obviously different to the Skoda and will take a little getting used to, but we had an excellent test session and will spend some more time preparing before the start,” said the Fazza Rally Team star, who will carry out another official pre-rally shakedown test on Wednesday.
“Germany is a fast and demanding rally on difficult stages. The tracks through the vineyards will require complete concentration. Then we have the stages in the Baumholder and these are tricky. There may be mud and dust on the roads to add to the hazards and I will need to do well here to be competitive in WRC2.”
The Skydive Dubai Rally Team is running in the 2013 WRC under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, and is backing the UAE’s bid for EXPO 2020.
The event has received a makeover this year and starts from Cologne for the first time since it was introduced to the WRC in 2002. ADAC Rally Deutschland will begin with a presentation of the cars and drivers at the Roncalliplatz with the backdrop of Cologne’s famous cathedral.
Teams will then tackle the first special stage near Blankenheim on Thursday evening and then a second test at Sauteral. Friday’s action will be centred around the base city of Trier in the Mosel wine-making district with special stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday taking place on a wide variety of demanding tarmac surfaces.
The event has been dominated by Frenchman Sébastien Loeb. The defending World Champion has won nine of the 10 WRC events staged in Germany and only missed out on outright victory when he collected a puncture in 2011 and Sébastien Ogier stepped in to take the win.
Loeb will not be present in Germany this season and Ogier will be determined to extend his massive 90-point championship lead over Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville on home soil for the dominant Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Al-Ketbi is tackling the competitive WRC2 category alongside a host of up and coming rally stars. He currently holds ninth in the points’ standings after missing the last event in Finland and will be eager to close the gap on mid-season front-runner Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
The Qatari will be hoping to defend a 15-point lead over Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs in Germany, although former Polish F1 driver Robert Kubica is the man in form and holds third, a mere two points further adrift.