Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi (pictured above), the Emirati driver for World Rally Championship team BP-Ford Abu Dhabi, says he will be treating next week’s Rally Jordan as he would any other leg of the WRC calendar.
Despite being born and bred in the UAE and now taking part in the Arab World’s first WRC edition since Morocco in 1976, Al Qassimi says he does not feel like the road race along the Dead Sea should be seen as his “home” event.
“The moment I leave the UAE, I know it’s not my country, so it’s not a home rally for me,” says Al Qassimi. “I drove the Acropolis and enjoyed it, I drove Monte Carlo and enjoyed it, I drove Sweden, I enjoyed it. I’m sure I will enjoy Jordan and hopefully do my country proud.”
The last time the Abu Dhabi-based driver was in the Hashemite Kingdom, he certainly pleased his travelling Emirati supporters: he won the Jordan edition of the Middle East Rally Championship and then claimed to have only been driving at 50 per cent of his capabilities. “All the drivers are relying on me because I won last year,” he says. “But I tell them ‘It’s completely different to what you think’.”
The 36-year-old agrees he will have advantages over his competitors, but says that does not make him a favourite to win.
“I always say: ‘You can have the best car and preparation in the world, but you can’t beat Mother Nature. In my head I will be looking to finish at least top 10.
“The temperature will work in my favour as obviously I am used to it, but in terms of driving a WRC car – on gravel – the other guys have far more experience.
“My main advantage will be knowing some of the conditions.”
But even then, he adds, this will not be as big an advantage as he had hoped.
“I’ve already spoken to the organisers to ask them about the stages and they told me that about 50 per cent of the stages are new,” says Al Qassimi.
"Jordan is difficult because it’s man-made. It’s not natural. It’s so easy to go off the track. You have to drop your pace a little.
“Of course, you will get some drivers still driving at their maximum speed, but they run the risk of coming off, hitting a rock and not being able to complete the race. I am realistic; I drive at a standard that I am happy with.
“I go for my maximum, but I always like to stay in control.”
Al Qassimi downplays advantage