BP Ford's 'third' driver Khalid Al Qassimi has said that he can't wait for the new season to start.

Al Qassimi, who did four WRC events last year following Abu Dhabi's deal with the 'Blue Oval', is down to do ten of the 15 rounds this season, beginning with the Rallye Monte Carlo in two weeks time.

The 2004 Middle East Rally champion, who lost out on taking his second MERC crown on the tie-break in '07, is eager to build on the experience he gained in Finland, Germany, Spain and Ireland and while he knows Monte Carlo and Sweden will be very tough, he is optimistic he could spring a surprise in Jordan and on some of the other gravel events, such as Sardinia and Greece.

"I can't wait to start my first full WRC season in the new Abu Dhabi-branded car," he noted. "It looks fantastic. There are a lot of tarmac events on the calendar this year, and starting the season with Monte Carlo and then Sweden - both with plenty of snow and ice expected - is obviously a little different to what I'm used to in Abu Dhabi and the MERC!

"I'm especially looking forward to Jordan though - which I won in the MERC last year - as I'll be able to test myself against the world's best drivers on familiar terrain. Then we move to Sardinia and Greece, where better weather will hopefully help me maintain high speeds.

"It's going to be a fantastic season and I have to again express my gratitude to Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and in particular, His Highness Sheikh Sultan, for giving me this unbelievable opportunity."

Al Qassimi meanwhile will link up with a new co-driver this season too, with Michael Orr, who called the pace-notes for Matthew Wilson in 2006 and 2007, replacing Nicky Beech. Khalid is eager to capitalise on Orr's knowledge.

"With Michael - a hugely experienced navigator - in the cockpit with me, I'm really optimistic about the season ahead. His knowledge will be really vital in helping me approach the new rallies and surfaces with the confidence to go all out," he summed-up.