Rally Jordan is season's best for Khalid al Qassimi

The Emirati happy with eighth-place finish, while there is disappointment for Latvala as the Abu Dhabi Ford driver loses out in last-stage thriller.

Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi celebrated his best result of the World Rally Championship (WRC) season in Jordan yesterday, but it proved to be a mixed day for the Abu Dhabi Ford team.

Al Qassimi finished eighth in the fourth round of the season to pick up four championship points and move himself up to 13th in the championship standings on five points.

It is the eighth time that the Emirati driver has finished in a points scoring place in the WRC and he acknowledged he had to work hard to achieve his finish.

"It was a tough rally," he said. "I tried to find a good pace and stay at that speed throughout the weekend, and my plan worked well. It wasn't an easy surface to drive on, and I had a few lucky escapes."

But it was not all good news for the Ford team as Jari-Matti Latvala missed out on his first win of the season by just two tenths of a second in the closest ever finish to a WRC event.

The Finnish driver had led by half a second from the Citroen of Sebastien Ogier going into the final stage of the 20-stage event.

But Ogier went fastest on the final stage, beating Latvala's time by seven tenths of the second to give the Frenchman his second successive WRC victory.

Latvala said: "It was a fantastic way for the rally to finish but I'm so disappointed to lose out.

"It hurts when you fight so hard and lose by such a small margin.  I made a few small mistakes on the final stage but I had no option to attack as hard as I could.  I took big risks all day, and it nearly paid off.  My heart was pounding on several occasions because I almost hit big rocks.

"This was my fourth consecutive podium and they are valuable points.

"The car's performance was great all weekend and it's given me plenty of confidence for the next few gravel events."

A jubilant Ogier said: "I had to push like hell. It is an amazing feeling."

Sebastien Loeb, the seven-time world champion, finished third and that was enough for him to take the outright lead in the championship as he finished ahead of Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, who was slowed by having to run first on the dusty roads on Friday and then endured mechanical problems.

The Finn was consoled by going second fastest, behind Ogier, on the final stage to earn two bonus points under new rules in the WRC for 2011.

He said: "It was a difficult weekend because I spent so many kilometres yesterday sweeping the road, but I'm pleased to have come out of it in a strong position in the championship.

"Two fastest times gave me a good boost and showed that the pace of the car is extremely strong."

* Compiled by The National staff with agency

Published: April 17, 2011 04:00 AM

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