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    Al Ketbi wants to end 7-year home win wait

    UAE driver on nine-event World Rally programme this year

    Rashid Al Ketbi says he will be the only one to blame if he fails to halt a series of personal setbacks in the Dubai International Rally this weekend by ending the UAE’s seven-year wait for a home victory.

    “If everything goes well I know I can do it, and if I don’t, there will be no excuses,” says the Emirati driver, who will be partnered by German lady co-driver Karina Hepperle in the Skydive Dubai Ford Fiesta RRC.

    “I’ve got a great team, a very experienced co-driver, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. It won’t be easy because all the other top drivers are capable of winning, but I hope this will be my year.”

    Al Ketbi is particularly eager to win the 35th Dubai International Rally to thank Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council (DEC), for his consistent support.

    With the backing of Skydive Dubai, the UAE driver has undertaken a nine-event World Rally Championship programme this year, finishing 10th in the WRC2 category.

    His best WRC2 finishes were third in France, fourth in Monte Carlo and fifth in Greece, and immediately after the Dubai Rally, Al Ketbi will begin preparing for a ten-event WRC2 programme next year.

    For the time being, he is fully focused on the final round of the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which has its ceremonial start at Dubai World Trade Centre at 7.30pm on Thursday prior to two days of fiercely competitive desert stages.

    The last three years have brought only Dubai International Rally frustration for Al Ketbi, who rolled and went out of the event in 2010 while holding second place and chasing victory. Twelve months later he led the rally at the half way point, but eventually had to settle for second place as Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah stormed through on the second let to win.

    His hopes were high again last year, but Al Ketbi had to settle for third as Al Attiyah won for the sixth time in a row. It means Shaikh Khalid Al Qassimi’s second successive Dubai International Rally victory in 2006 was the last by a UAE driver.

    Oganised by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, the national motor sport authority, the rally is based for a fourth year at Dubai Men’s College, in the Higher Colleges of Technology campus at Academic City, Dubai, which hosts the Rally HQ and service park. The first leg on Friday morning 29 November takes the competitors through Al Dhaid to the first loop of three special stages at Zubeidah, Al Falaj near Khadra village, and Showka, prior to a service regrouping. The same stages are repeated in the afternoon.

    The following day’s second leg features two loops of three stages at Al Dhaid (Police College), Khadra and Mileiha, all in the Al Dhaid/Mileiha area and are easily located from the Sharjah-Kalba Road or the Al Dhaid Road. The survivors will reach the finish at Dubai World Trade Centre at 4.30pm the same day.

    (Khaleej Times)

     
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