Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is full of optimism about his chances ahead of the new Middle East Rally Championship (Merc) season, as well as Emirati participation in rallying.
The chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing (ADR) will lead a contingent of six Emirati drivers in the event, which begins on Thursday and runs until Saturday.
Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Mohamed Al Mutawaa, who both drove in last year’s 2WD class, are returning, along with debutants Saeed Bintouq, Juma Al Falasi, and Mansoor Bel Helie, all driving Team Abu Dhabi Citroen cars.
Sheikh Khalid, the 2004 Merc champion, said he wanted the drivers to enjoy the opportunity and look to gain experience from the event rather than charging all-out to get a strong result.
“There is no call for demonstrating their abilities or speed, and I will be extremely happy when they all make it to the finish line, and this in itself is a great accomplishment for all of us, and will serve as a testimony for their capacity to learn and develop their skills while under pressure,” he said.
Of the scheme to promote more Emirati participation in ADR, he added: “This is a great learning curve for our young drivers and a great opportunity for them to learn and benefit from the expertise of their co-drivers.
“It is a chance for them to carefully listen to instructions and notes and successfully translate them during the rally stages.
“Seizing this big opportunity to improve their skills is much more important to me than achieving record speeds, and requires a great level of discipline, especially in the early stages of the race, where the risk of aggressiveness could easily translate to misfortune.”
Sheikh Khalid, who also competes in the World Rally Championship, was runner-up in last year's championship to Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah, who dominated the season, winning five of the six races.
Al Attiyah won last year’s Qatar Rally ahead of Sheikh Khalid, and the Emirati is expecting to be a contender again at the event, which he has yet to win.
“My objective, as in every participation, is to compete for the top positions,” he said.
“The competition is really high. I will work hard to be at the heart of this competition.”
The event begins with a special 2.2km stage on the Doha Corniche on Thursday, before six stages on Friday and six on Saturday.