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Reconnaissance crucial to Jordan preparations

Jordan International Rally - PR6
2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3 of 6

For immediate release
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2003

RECONNAISSANCE CRUCIAL
TO PRE-RALLY PREPARATIONS

Return of Dead Sea stages for Jordan competitors; Heat set to be intense

AMMAN (Jordan): Forty-eight drivers from 10 nations taking part in this weekend's Jordan international Rally have spent the last three days checking the challenging route through the remotest regions of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The international event is supported by Marlboro and is the third round of the 2003 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

Detailed preparations are vital for competitors taking part this weekend and current FIA regulations enable teams to run through the special stages for three days prior to the start on Thursday. Drivers were able to see what lies in store for Friday's opening leg yesterday (Monday), before switching to a reconnaissance of Saturday's special stages today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday).

Rally officials at the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan have laid on a challenging route this year, which will be made that much more difficult by the intense heat which lies waiting for competing teams. The rally was switched from its usual May date because of the Iraq War and July desert temperatures in Jordan can be extreme.

Action gets underway with a timed Marlboro-sponsored 2.35 kms super special stage, near Amman, on Thursday evening. This opening competitive action will be broadcast live on Jordan's premier television network and starts at 17.00.

Super Specials have a reputation for throwing up a few surprises: last year Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh rolled his Toyota Celica GT4 in front of the cameras, but returns this year to Jordan fresh from an excellent fifth place in the Marlboro Rally of Lebanon last month.

The meat of the competitive action begins on Friday morning after the first service at Baalbaki. Teams will tackle a 15 kms test at Khan Zbeib, south of Amman, and a punishing 14 kms section at Basiliyeh. After a return to service in Baalbaki, drivers head into a 21 kms stage at Sultani and a gruelling 30 kms run through the infamous Swaqqa stage. Intense heat and the rocky nature of the terrain are likely to take an early toll on the entry.

After a lunchtime regrouping and service point in Baalbaki, teams repeat the morning's action with a further four stages, prior to the run back into Amman. There is 162 kms of competitive action on Friday.

Saturday's stages around Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea were used numerous times in previous Jordan rallies, but have not been used for several years. Competitive action kicks off at 06.48 with a short, but twisty, 6.6 kms special at the Dead Sea - renowned for being the lowest special stage on any rally on earth.

As the morning temperatures begin to climb, this is followed by a 7.3 kms run across a mountaineous stage at Mount Nebo and an 8.0 kms special across the fertile Jordan Valley, near the Jordan River.

~The stages in this area are the most popular with competitors,~ said Australian team manager Ron Cremen, who looks after the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution run by Marlboro Team Kuwait driver Mohammed Al-Sarraf. ~They are challenging and technical. It is vital that drivers take a careful note of the terrain and concentrate during the reconnaissance. It is so easy to make a silly mistake and throw away a finish.~

After the first major service of the day, these three special stages are repeated before a mid-morning regrouping in Amman. Competitors then tackle a 15 kms stage at Rumman, renowned for its annual hillclimb which has attracted many top names over the years.

An 8.8 kms run through Wadi Shueib is followed by a repeat of both tests and the final 2.35 Super Special stage in Amman brings the competitive action to its conclusion. The ceremonial finish of this year's 20-stage Jordan International Rally takes place at 17.15 at Marj-Al-Hamam. In a total route of 1053 kms, 257 kms will be competitive.

~This year's rally offers a challenging test for our competitors,~ said Hassan Alaeddin, the chairman of the Royal Automobile Club of Jordan. ~Friday's stages take place on classic tracks through the desert. The heat and the nature of the stages are sure to test drivers to the limit. Then we are delighted to return to the special stages near the Dead Sea. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and one of the treasures of our country. These stages will be hot, twisty and demanding.~

The Jordan Rally is based at the Amman Marriott Hotel and has further support from Marlboro, Royal Jordanian airlines, Amman Marriott, Masar/Motorola, Toyota, Mobilecom, Samsung, Minolta, Batelco Jordan and Aramex.

Ends

For further media information: Neil Perkins, 2003 Jordan International Rally Press Officer, Rally Media Centre, Moab Hall, Royal Auromobile Club of Jordan, Amman, Tel: + (962) 6 5818345 , Fax: + (962) 6 5818278
www.racj.com
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com

Date issued: 22/07/2003

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