WRC Jordan Rally gets underway in historic Jerash on Thursday morning
JORDAN RALLY, April 1st-3rd, 2010
2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
FORD AND CITROËN SET TO RESUME WRC
DUEL AT THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH
· Sébastien Loeb set to defend six-point WRC lead
· Andersson and Pons aim to topple Prokop in SWRC
· Portugal’s Araújo bids to extends 15-point PWRC lead
· Al-Attiyah, Al-Qassimi and Al-Thani set for MERC battle
DEAD SEA (Jordan): The BP Ford Abu Dhabi and Citroën Total World Rally Teams will resume their duel for supremacy in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the lowest place on earth in the Jordan Rally on Thursday.
The three-day event is the third round of the world’s premier off-road motor sport series and the two teams arrived in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan separated by a mere six points in the FIA Manufacturers’ Championship.
Defending World Champion Sébastien Loeb admitted that he enjoyed his first visit to Jordan in 2008 and the Frenchman leads the FIA Drivers’ Championship by a similar six-point margin after his convincing victory in Mexico recently. Finnish rival Mikko Hirvonen secured outright victory on his only visit to Jordan two years ago and will be out to resurrect his WRC challenge on the winding gravel tracks that plummet to as low as 400 metres below sea level near the shores of the Dead Sea.
Adverse weather conditions forced event organisers to repair damaged gravel tracks in recent weeks and minor amendments were made to the route to ensure safety and prevent problems on the event.
“Even after the repairs, the weather has actually damaged some of the stage surfaces and meant we had to change some of our notes,” admitted Hirvonen, who will be chasing a 13th WRC victory over the Easter weekend. “It may actually be a slight advantage not to be running first through the stages on Thursday.”
Sixty-three teams from 26 nations grace the provisional starting list for the most important off-road motor sport event ever to be staged in the Middle East. Thirty of those are registered for the two-day FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) round and thirty-three will tackle all three days and 21 timed special stages of gravel competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Five of those are also registered for points in the regional series.
Bolstering the line-up of 10 World Rally Cars are the Stobart M-Sport team duo of Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg in a pair of Ford Focus RS WRC 08s, Loeb’s team mate Dani Sordo in a Citroën C4 WRC and Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala in the second BP Ford Focus WRC 09.
The Citroën Junior Team is represented by the rapidly-improving Sébastien Ogier and ex-Formula One driver Kimi Räikkönen. Argentina’s Federico Villagra of the Munchi’s Rally Team and Norwegian privateer Petter Solberg complete the top 10. Solberg claimed a superb podium finish on the last round in Mexico and lies fifth in the FIA Drivers’ Championship behind his brother Henning and Ogier.
Sweden’s Pal-Gunnar Andersson and Spain’s Xavier Pons will be hoping to wrest the new FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) lead from Czech driver Martin Prokop. A record 10 S2000 cars will start the Jordan Rally in the WRC section and, in the absence of Prokop, the door is open for his closest rivals to seal their second wins of the campaign.
Andersson won in Sweden and Pons was triumphant in Mexico, but the competition is likely to be fierce with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, Sweden’s Patrik Sandell and Finland’s Janne Tuohino among several potential winners on the impressive entry list.
Portugal’s Armindo Araújo will be aiming to extend his 15-point lead in the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) category in Jordan, but the Mitsubishi driver faces an intense challenge from Sweden’s Patrik Flodin – a winner of four events already this season – and the likes of Czech driver Martin Semerad and Jordanian wild card entrant Amjad Farrah, the outright winner of the Jordan Rally in 2004.
Al-Attiyah may be running among the Priority 3 group of drivers at the head of the field, but he is also defending a joint lead in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. The Qatari has won the title in six of the last seven seasons and is chasing a 36th MERC victory in Jordan. His Skoda Fabia S2000 will sport Pirelli’s control tyre, while 30 of his other 34 rivals will be able to choose their own tyre options through the MERC regulations.
Farrah, Al-Attiyah and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi are three of the five drivers tackling both the WRC and MERC events, but the top seed in the regional rally is the 2004 FIA Middle East champion, Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi. “The goal is to go out there and win the Middle East rally,” admitted Al-Qassimi.
The Emirati has opted to drive a Ford Fiesta S2000 behind the WRC field in his bid to ease in front of Al-Attiyah and Qatar’s Sheikh Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani in the points’ standings.
All three drivers have 10 points, although the eight-round series is still wide open with the likes of Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri, Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh – the winner of the Jordan Rally in 1981 and 1982 - also in the hunt for points before the series heads to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in three weeks.
Teams will tackle seven special stages on Thursday after the ceremonial start in Jerash from 11.00hrs. Pre-start formalities from 09.00hrs will feature a singing performance by Arabic sensation Omar Al-Abdallat, a chariot race and a gladiators’ display at the ancient Hippodrome for the media.
Special stage action begins with a run through the scenic 15.34km Rumman forest special from 11.28hrs. Crews will then tackle the Wadi Shueib (12.26hrs), Mahes (12.54hrs) and Mount Nebo (13.37km) specials, before returning to the Dead Sea for the main service and regroup.
The Wadi Shueib, Mahes and Mount Nebo specials will be repeated at 15.50hrs, 16.13hrs and 16.56hrs on Thursday afternoon. Teams taking part in the MERC category will enter the fray for just two days from Friday.
Top 10 starters (WRC)
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09
7. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC
11. Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC
6. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
2. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC
5. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
9. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
8. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Citroën C4 WRC
Leading starters (MERC)
22. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Skoda Fabia S2000*
49. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) Subaru Impreza*
62. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000*
71. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000
72. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza
73. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Skoda Fabia S2000
74. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza
75. Hamed Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA)/Arif Yousef (UAE) Subaru Impreza
* denotes entered in WRC event and also MERC registered
2010 FIA World Rally Championship
Drivers’ Championship – after round two
1. Sébastien Loeb (F) 43 pts
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 37 pts
3. Sébastien Ogier (F) 25 pts
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 25 pts
5. Petter Solberg (N) 20 pts
6. Henning Solberg (N) 16 pts, etc
Manufacturers’ Championship – after round two
1. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 67 pts
2. Citroën Total World Rally Team 61 pts
3. Citroën Junior Team 32 pts
4. Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team 28 pts
5. Munchi’s World Rally Team 8 pts
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Drivers’ Championship – after round two
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 10 pts
1. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10 pts
1. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA) 10 pts
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 8 pts
4. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 8 pts
6. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA) 6 pts
7. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 5 pts
7. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 5 pts
7. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT) 5 pts, etc
For further media information:
2010 Jordan Rally Press Office, Main Media Centre, King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Mobile: + 962 79 6548882 or Mobile: + 962 79 5640597, E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org