Citroën Racing and the DS3 RRC will make their competitive debut in the Middle East this weekend at the Qatar Rally, the first round of the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). Entered by the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team and driven by Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin, the DS3 RRC will begin two days of racing on Friday morning, featuring over 260 kilometres of timed stages around Doha.
A few hours ahead of the start of the rally, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi talked about his satisfaction at being able to take part in this championship in the ‘little sister’ of the World Rally Championship-winning car. “I’m really happy to be taking part in this rally in a car like the DS3 RRC. After a few test sessions at the start of the week, which went very well, I feel ready to fight to try and win another title,” explained the Emirati driver.
Given that no manufacturer has ever entered a works team in this championship, Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal, was very excited about this new challenge for Citroën and the eight-time World Championship-winning team. “The partnership we have formed with Abu Dhabi, and of course with Sheikh Khalid, has several aspects: the WRC is the first of these, but one of our shared priorities is to generate business in new regions and promote Citroën in the Middle East. We would also like to set up a programme aimed at identifying talented young drivers, and Sheikh Khalid has been very enthusiastic about our plans. Mohammed Al Mutawaa and Mohammed Al Ali therefore won a season-long drive in the MERC in two DS3 R3s, where they will also be competing for the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total Team.”
Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and the local future champions will have to manage their race and control their pace on a course featuring plenty of pitfalls, with some very fast stages that are littered with rocks in places. The first stage, “Al Shabhana”, gets underway on Friday 25 January at 9.33am local time (7.33am in France).