Doha, 14 June 2020 - The rough gravel terrains of Chile will test the 12 qualifiers to limits as they battle it out in the WRC 8 semi-finals for six slots on Sunday.
The drivers have been split into two pools with six each and the Group A will take to the starting line at 5 pm, while the Group B begins the quest one and a half hours later. There will be three rounds in all to spot the fastest three from each group on the basis of the maximum points collected. Three top drivers each from the two groups will figure in the one race shootout to decide the champion.
The races will have Qatar Online Racing Championship Observer Omar Aswat and Timekeeping Officer Aaron Limbago.
The Group A consists of Omani rally champion Zakariya Al Aufi, Mansour Dbeissy (eighth in QORC Auto finals), Misfer Al Hajri, Khalid Al Maraghi (QORC Moto third-place winner), Ahmed Al Kuwari and Patrick Roux.
The Group B features former FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies T2 winner Adel Hussein Abdulla, who has been unbeaten in all 22 stages that he has contested so far, Ammar Al Balushi, the co-driver of Al Aufi, Ahmed El Khouly (QORC Auto winner), Hamad Al Sulaiti (QTCC M240 and QORC Auto runner-up), Kuwait’s Meshari Al Thefiri and his co-driver Nasser Saadoun Al Kuwari, the MERC 2 champions.
Abdulla has indeed been the driver to beat after three qualifying rallies (Sweden, France and Argentina). He has not only set the fastest times in all the three rallies, he has claimed all the 22 stages so far and beaten the closest challengers by over three minutes. This shows clearly how hot pace he has set in this digital challenge. On the basis of his envious peformance, he is clearly tipped to get into the finals from his group.
“I hope I can something very good in this stage and qualify for the finals. The competition is certaintly going to get difficult with the best drivers left in the fray. I’ll try my best to win the race tomorrow. The WRC cars (in the semi-finals) are much faster than the R5 that we used in the qualifying, requiring a great deal of concentration. Also we need to be quite sharp on turns. I wish good luck to all and may the deserving driver win and advance to the finals,” Abdulla added.
But Abdulla’s pool may not be easy for him. Al Balushi, with 16 stage wins, is surely going to lead the challenge. He said: “Of course the drivers who qualified to the finals are very skilled and I feel the competition level will be high. I will try my best so that I can grab a podium position.
“Zakariya and I are very happy about the results in the qualifying stage. We’ll try to take the championship to Oman,” Al Balushi added.
QORC Auto winner and runner-up Al Khouly and Al Sulaiti, who have bagged four stages each, are also in the fray and capable of big upsets. El Khouly won all his stages in Sweden, while Al Sulaiti also performed well in that rally in his group and clinched three of his stages.
El Khouly said: “My group is very difficult. Abdulla is there. Even other drivers are also quite competitive. I’m setting goal after goal for me. Now the aim for me is to get into the finals. I’ll try my best but it is going to be very tough and interesting. Let us see what happens.”
Al Sulaiti said he is thrilled to be racing against the best of the lot. “I’m happy to reach the semi-finals round with the best drivers. I hope that I get a bit lucky and can achieve the desired results - the finals.”
MERC 2 regional winners Al Thefiri and Nasser Saadon Al Kuwari are also in the pool. Al Thefiri grabbed a stage in the Rally Argentina and displayed he was getting into a shape good enough to resist the fastest drivers in the pool.
The Group A features two of the top three drivers in the competition - Al Aufi and Dbeissy. Both faced some spirited resistence in Sweden but thereafter, they went on to regain their superb rhythm and speed, posting wins in 18 stages.
Al Aufi said he was preparing hard for the semi-finals. “I’m looking forward for tomorrow’s race. I’m expecting tough competition but I’m trying to get as much training as possible. Pressure is always there. Usually in real races, I fear about mechanical failures and not other competitors.
“In SIM racing, it is however slightly different. You can see results of others on the screen while driving and this can put pressure on you to push more either to run away from others or catch up quickly if you are behind. I’m ready, anways,” added the Omani national champion.
Dbeissy is also excited with his level and hopes to do well in WRC car. “By the grace of God, I qualified for the semi-finals. In my group, there are several experienced players, but my training is in full swing to ensure that there is no mistake in the next stage. The car has changed now - it is much stronger and controlling it has become difficult but we;ll see on Sunday how I will deal with it.”
Al Maraghi was pleased with his pace in the final stages of the Rally Argentina. He said, “To be honest, the first two rallies were good for me and quite fair to my level. Then in the final qualifying rally, I was really fast and I didn’t expect to compete the fastest driver Ammar. But at the end, all I can say that I’m lucky to be with the professional drivers in the semi-finals and will try to do my best in the next rounds. I wish very best to to all the competitors.”The qualifierscColor:>
Group A: Adel Hussein Abdulla, Misfer Al Hajri, Patrick Roux
Group B: Mansour Dbeissy, Ahmed El Khouly, Nasser Saadoun Al Kuwari
Group C: Zakariya Al Aufi (Oman), Hamad Al Sulaiti, Ahmed Al Kuwari
Group D: Ammar Al Balushi (Oman), Khalid Al Maraghi, Meshari Al Thefiri (Kuwait)
Groupings for semi-finals
Group A @ 5 pm
Zakariya Al Aufi (Oman), Mansour Dbeissy, Misfer Al Hajri, Khalid Al Maraghi, Ahmed Al Kuwari, Patrick Roux
Group B @ 6:30 pm
Adel Hussein Abdulla, Ammar Al Balushi (Oman), Ahmed Al Khouly, Hamad Al Sulaiti, Meshari Al Thefairi (Kuwait), Nasser Saadon Al Kuwari
Second round rallies schedule
Sunday - Chile (gravel terrain)
Tuesday - Spain (asphalt + gravel terrain)
Thursday - Germany (asphalt terrain)