Ford's third works driver Khalid Al Qassimi became the first major retirement from Rally Japan when the Abu Dhabi driver crashed heavily on the first full-length stage. The accident saw Al Qassimi's car knock down a tree, and the following Martin Prokop then strike either the damaged Focus (according to Al Qassimi) or the felled tree (according to Prokop). Both Al Qassimi and his co-driver Michael Orr were unhurt.
Q. What happened on the first stage?
Khalid Al Qassimi: We had a left-hand corner, medium fast. We slid a little bit but I didn't want that corner to give me a scare, so I kept the same pace. The next corner, a right-three plus, in the middle of it we were a little bit fast, the car slid onto the loose and into a ditch. It broke a caliper and went like a spin and back into the ditch.
We hit the tree and knocked the tree down and back into the road. The big shock was that the car was upside down on Michael's side and we couldn't get ourselves out of the car.
Q. It took you a while to get out though, the next car was coming quickly?
KAQ: It was. Michael could hear rally cars coming, a lot of brakes, we were trying to get out of the car and a rally car hit the bottom of our car but they didn't stop. It was Martin Prokop. There was no OK sign and we were still in the car. I cannot blame him but if there was something wrong with one of the crew... We could not get out because the car was messed up and on its side.
Q. Did the other car hit you hard?
KAQ: It wasn't a big impact when Prokop hit but it was very frightening and could have been worse.
Q. How bad is the car?
KAQ: On my side the car looks fine but when we rolled we hit the tree and there was a big impact on Michael's side.
Q. Worse than Finland?
KAQ: On one corner [right rear] it looks worse than Finland but overall, Finland was worse. We were in fourth gear when we crashed, just like in Finland.
This is not an easy rally. The stages are narrow. If there was a couple of centimeters, even with the car sliding, we would have come back, but it's so narrow. I'm disappointed because to do two kilometers [then retire] is not so good.
Q. You must be very disappointed?
KAQ: It's frustrating because I crashed in Finland and this just happened in a very short space of time. But you cannot change what happened.
Q. And now you fly directly to Lebanon for the Middle East Rally Championship round?
KAQ: I have to travel now to make it easier for me in Lebanon. It's really difficult over there and I need to go and win. Maybe for the last couple of the rallies we were sometimes too fast for the corners and now we might need to see what the right speed is.
When you go and do a rally like Lebanon you don't want to back off – you have to do your best to get a good result. I will leave it a day or two to refresh my mind but I need to do something in Lebanon.