ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is confident that the new partnership between Abu Dhabi Racing [ADR] and Citroen will get off to a victorious start at the Monte Carlo Rally.
While Sheikh Khalid himself is not competing in the opening round of the 2013 World Rally Championship [WRC], which began Tuesday with the ceremonial start and runs until Saturday, the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will have world champion Sebastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo competing in their colours in their respective DS3 cars.
The rally will see the drivers race on snow-covered tarmac stages, and Sheikh Khalid said: "I think we have a very strong team competing in Monte Carlo. Sebastien is the world champion and has won there before and I am sure he will be very competitive again.
"Mikko has won there when it was an IRC [Intercontinental Rally Challenge] event and Dani is a tarmac specialist so I think that we will be strong."
Sheikh Khalid, who is the chairman of ADR, is not in Monte Carlo because he is working with the French manufacturer on developing his car for next week's opening round of the Middle East Rally Championship [MERC] in Qatar.
He will make his first WRC appearance of the year next month in Sweden, and he said: "I am looking forward to it. I have heard good things about the car. I have not driven it yet in its WRC set up but I will do before Sweden."
Sheikh Khalid sat out the entire 2012 WRC season having been a regular competitor since 2007, but he believes his return to the championship, thanks to the formation of the ADR, will not only help him but raise the profile of the city and encourage the next generation of rally drivers to get behind the wheel.
"We see this as the start of a new era for Abu Dhabi in world rallying and I'm very excited by what lies ahead," he said. "I'm very happy to be getting the chance to return to action in the WRC but the bigger picture is that this is a unique opportunity to carry the Abu Dhabi brand to a worldwide audience."
Also in action in Monte Carlo is Rashid Al Ketbi, who will drive a Skoda Fabia S2000 in the WRC2 category.
The Emirati, who drives for the Skydive Dubai Rally Team, said: "I know it is going to be a tremendous challenge this week but I am really looking forward to it.
"To improve in this sport you need to rally in all types of weather conditions."
Today's action comprises four special stages, with the total event covering a distance of 465 kilometres before the winner is crowned on Saturday afternoon.
[ @SprtNationalUAE ]