Skydive Dubai Rally Team driver Rashid Al Ketbi and his German co-driver Karina Hepperle begin their challenge for honours in the Monte Carlo Rally, round one of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship, in France on Wednesday.
After taking part in a successful season of IRC rallies and select European events in 2012, Al Ketbi is back with a vengeance in his Skoda Fabia S2000, but the treacherous roads of the Maritime Alps – where snow and ice are prevalent at almost every turn – offer the Emirati one of his biggest challenges to date.
“I know it is going to be a tremendous challenge this week but I am really looking forward to it,” said Al Ketbi. “To improve in this sport you need to rally in all types of weather conditions.”
The former winner of the Jordan Rally lines up in a fiercely-competitive WRC2 category with several of the world’s leading class two S2000 drivers determined to open their season with a successful result – their task made that much more difficult with the news that heavy snow is likely to fall in the region this week.
Skoda Motorsport has entered the flying Finn Esapekka Lappi and Al Ketbi will again lock horns with the German driver Sepp Wiegand, who drove well in the IRC last year.
German driver Armin Kremer drives for Stohl Racing and the Ukraine’s Yuriy Protosov, Mexican number one Ricardo Trivino and the Italian duo of Luca Betti and Lorenzo Bertelli complete the WRC2 line-up.
These drivers run behind the main WRC protagonists, who include multiple World Champion Sébastien Loeb and his teammate and many people’s pre-season title favourite Mikko Hirvonen. Volkswagen Motorsport will also make their official full WRC start with the new Polo WRC and drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier.
Action gets underway on Wednesday with four timed special stages in the Valence area close to the permanent service park.
Six more timed tests follow on Thursday over demanding Alpine roads, three stages are on offer on Friday – including the famous Sisteron special - and there are five further stages on Saturday before the official podium finish at 11.00hrs outside the Place du Palais in Monaco on Sunday.
The 18 stages will offer a total of 465km of competition.
The Skydive Dubai Rally Team duo is running in the 2013 WRC under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council,
Follow Emirates 24|7 on Google News.