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GP Week : Issue 171
WRC >>> FEATURE Other people will be responsible for other aspects of Abu Dhabi’s work. Apart from rally activities, what other promotional outlets will you and your Abu Dhabi colleagues pursue? I can’t give you the answers now, because I’m the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing so I only know our aims and what we are planning. For sure we will take a lot of options into consideration but those options have to be studied very well to ensure we at Abu Dhabi Racing, Abu Dhabi as a destination and the image of Abu Dhabi all benefit. These things will need more time to study, to do all the right homework and research. We believe the agreement with Citroen is a five-year contract. Is this the length of period you are expecting this activity to continue in rallying or is Abu Dhabi expecting to continue beyond that? There are many objectives in addition to the Citroen WRC programme. One of our aims is to bring the winning Citroen factory team to the Middle East, where it has never been before. This is to be a full factory team, completely branded exactly the same in the Middle East Championship as in the WRC. Then there will be a lot of selection work to develop a new young driver from Abu Dhabi and the Emirates and also to do things to help the sport in the region. The WRC work with Citroen is the tip of the iceberg. Abu Dhabi Racing is already doing deals right now regarding circuit-racing cars. For sure rally activities are our biggest goal, because I come from this background and I really believe rallying will grow more and more, but we are actually doing a lot of things in circuit racing as well. What is the reason you chose to make a partnership with Citroen and not a different company? There were many factors. Dealing directly with a manufacturer was attractive as was being assured of a good degree of available visibility on the cars, and not least the attraction of enhancing the regional sport by bringing another car brand to competition in the Middle East. We looked at different teams, the only thing for us was finding the best available deal. I’m not disparaging the offers of the other companies, all of them were really good and they had their own ways of presenting their offer, but there were a few extra opportunities with Citroen. The visible awareness of our branding had to be really very strong on the car. So will Red Bull still be involved with the Citroen team? Basically part of our deal was not to be like we were at Ford who had a lot of sponsors on the car, but for the time being we need to focus on having Abu Dhabi and Citroen’s livery to maximum effect. I don’t think Red Bull will be with us next year. Will your car be identical with the full works cars, for example Mikko Hirvonen’s? All of the Citroen Abu Dhabi cars will be identical, across the board. That is part of the deal; all three WRC cars will line up looking identical, technically and visually. The fourth (S2000) car for the Middle East championship will be outwardly and technically the same as the world championship. The differences between RRC car and the World Rally Car are very minor – the same engine, same body, same everything except some aerodynamics and restrictor changes. The Citroen (DS3) RRC car hasn’t yet been used in competition but I believe their engineers can do a really good job to develop the right performance from it. You have come to Jordan to make a comeback after almost 12 months since your last competition appearance. Is your plan personally to do all the 2013 Middle East Championship as well as a limited number of events next year in the WRC? There will be three Citroen Abu Dhabi cars doing the WRC in any case. My only problem, me personally, with all of this big involvement and Chairing the company, is the possibility for not being able to do all the events I want. Sometimes I will have to be somewhere else. I have not yet selected which events we will do. For example at Monte Carlo I might be there just for announcing the team but I don’t think I’ll have competing involvement, because of being involved with all this motorsport from circuit to rallying. I can’t divide myself everywhere. But your objective is to win the Middle East Championship personally? For sure, the MERC is now a great championship. We have already seen Ford and Mini win with their RRCs; next year there should be a chance to see a Citroen win – it will be really challenging. We need to see more and more regional championships developing, with manufacturer teams giving their support. I’m just trying to add a factory team to boost it more. Now, personally, what is the reason you haven’t been competing since last year? Two things, quite simply. Firstly, in November 2011 I had two surgical operations, in my knee and another one in my hip. I had a tear in one of the deep muscles in my hip and with ligaments in my knee. Even now I am not fully recovered, I’m just about 75%. These problems came as a result of accidents on rallies. I had two incidents in a very short period of time when I rolled in Finland but then had a bigger impact and crash when I rolled in Japan. At the time I just ignored the problems, just doing normal physiotherapy but when I had an MRI (scan) they told me there will come a time in a couple of months where we’ll need to do surgery. I felt the problems getting worse and worse, but I delayed doing anything until I finished the programme with Ford and then decided to go ahead with it. The other was to finish the deal with Citroen. Andattheageof36–orisit40?,I never know – you have now decided to come back into competition. A second youth, maybe? The reality is 36 but there are good reasons why people are not sure! My goal is to achieve what I can with the support of the (Abu Dhabi) government . The Middle East Championship is now very strong. t is certainly not only a matter of all Nasser Al Attiyah any more. Yazeed (Al Rajhi) is strong, there is another guy (Abdulaziz Al Kuwari) who is leading the (2012) championship, who is also really strong. All of them have a different angle, they really work hard at what they are doing so all of them will be competing at a high level. And you know the MERC has more turbocharged regional rally cars than anywhere in the world! 42 GPWEEK.com // 42 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: