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17.10.2008 / Dead Sea (Jordan)-

‘Abu Dhabi’ is not only changing the Formula world soon, but apparently it will also be akey-player and the rally world soon. After sponsoring the Ford WRC Team, one of the leading WRC Teams in this year’s World Rally Championship, it seems that the Abu Dhabi emirate is also paying great attention to the young talents and junior drivers wishing to compete in regional and international championships.

This supports takes place through the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team. One of the three members of the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team began their challenge for honours in the Jordan Rally at the lowest place on earth on Friday morning (17.10.2008) and two of the three drivers held 16th and 20th in the overall standings after four timed gravel special stages near the Dead Sea and the world famous Baptism site in the stunning Jordan Valley.
Abu Dhabi rookie Bader Al-Jabri

The last names to grace these treacherous special stages were the likes of French World Champion Sébastien Loeb and Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen during Jordan’s successful round of the FIA World Rally Championship back in April, but the young Abu Dhabi rookies Majed Al-Shamsi, Bader Al-Jabri and Khalil Al-Sheikh started brightly.

Abu Dhabi’s new junior rally programme has been put together by BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi with support from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is run under the chairmanship of His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al-Nahyan.

Young Al-Jabri missed the last regional challenge for members of the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team in Lebanon, but did tackle a national event in Sharjah earlier this season and the rally in Syria. During the course of the season this trio have also been joined by Mansour Al-Suwaidi on a rotation system and the team has already tackled two small club rallies in the United Kingdom, in addition to rounds of the regional championship.
Abu Dhabi Junior Team rookie Khalil Al Sheikh

Al-Shamsi was the fastest of the Ford Fiesta-driving Abu Dhabi Juniors through the opening 14.12 km of the twisty Yakrut special stage on Friday morning and opened up a 5.1 second lead over Al-Jabri. His pace was sufficient to push the Abu Dhabi driver to a fine 19th overall from 31 starters. Al-Sheikh was 25 seconds further adrift.

Al-Shamsi extended his overall advantage to 6.6 seconds through the second stage at Rawda and moved up to 17th overall, although Al-Jabri maintained the pressure. Khalil Al-Sheikh slipped a little further behind his rivals, but remained in contention for the top 20 in 22nd overall.

Al-Shamsi was again fastest on the third Seham stage and moved up to 17th, but Al-Jabri suffered overheating problems and was running late on the road behind Khalil Al-Sheikh, who moved up to 21st overall. Al-Jabri was unable to complete the next stage, but is planning to restart on Saturday under the event’s SupeRally ruling.
Abu Dhabi Junior Team rookie Majed Al Shamsi

Al-Shamsi set the 15th fastest time – a superb achievement in a front-wheel drive car – in the fourth Baptism site stage, held at one of the lowest points on earth at around 400 metres below sea level and moved up to 16th place. Al-Sheikh climbed to 20th place.

“Our drivers all started very well on what we know are very deceptive and difficult special stages,” admitted Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi, the winner of the Jordan Rally in 2007. “It is important they continue to gain as much experience of slippery gravel surfaces as possible.”

Lebanon’s Roger Feghali was the revelation of the opening special stages and had opened up a comfortable lead over defending regional champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and Cypriot Nicos Thomas after four timed tests.
Roger Feghali hit stunning form on day one in Jordan

Tomorrow (Saturday, 18.10.2008) the Abu Dhabi Junior Rally Team will tackle a further nine special stages in the Dead Sea area of the Jordan Valley, beginning with a run through the 13km Suwayma stage. Competitive action follows at Mahes, Turki and Erak Elamir, before the surviving youngsters return to the Dead Sea for a regroup and service stop.

Repeats of the Suwayma and Mahes stages precede a run along a technical route near Mount Nebo from 2pm and the competitive action reaches a conclusion with second runs through the Turki and Erak Elamir stages. The ceremonial finish will take place at Emaar South Park on the shores of the Dead Sea from 5pm.

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