WRC Defending World Champion Loeb heads entry in Jordan
2008 JORDAN RALLY, April 24th-April 27th 2008
2008 FIA World Rally Championship, round 5
For immediate release
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPION LOEB HEADS TOP
CLASS ENTRY INTO HISTORY-MAKING JORDAN RALLY
Top manufacturers face fierce Dead Sea showdown
Jordan's Farrah leads regional drivers; Ogier tops JWRC
DEAD SEA (Jordan): The 2008 Jordan Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start at the Dead Sea on Thursday afternoon and marks the start of the first FIA World Rally Championship event to be held in the Arab world in the modern era. A provisional 55 cars will compete along the 22 timed special stages that have been laid on by Jordan Motorsport, under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, to test the world's finest rally drivers.
HRH Prince Feisal made a surprise visit to the King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre at the Dead Sea to see for himself how preparations for the rally were progressing. "Everybody has worked hard to get to this stage and the initial feedback I have received is extremely positive," said HRH Prince Feisal. "We are looking forward to hosting a memorable and successful event."
Top seed is the reigning FIA World Rally Champion and current series leader Sébastien Loeb in the first of the Citroën Total World Rally Team's C4s. The Frenchman is chasing an unprecedented 40th WRC win and arrives in Amman five points clear of Finland's Mikko Hirvonen in the championship standings, courtesy of his recent win in Argentina.
The event marks Loeb's first ever appearance on a rally in the Middle East, but he remains one of the most competitive of the gravel surface drivers and will be confident that he can match and beat Hirvonen and the Finn's Ford team mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who is also making his first appearance in Jordan in a Ford Focus RS.
Subaru's Chris Atkinson lies third in the FIA Drivers' Championship standings, a mere three points behind Hirvonen, and the Australian and Impreza-driving colleague Petter Solberg could well upset the form book and confirm a first victory for the Subaru World Rally Team since Wales Rally GB in 2005.
Solberg and co-driver Philip Mills were guests of Jordan Motorsport at the country's candidate event in 2007 and were permitted to view some of the special stages last year. Mills was a winner of the Jordan Rally in 1994 and his experience of Middle East culture and the nature of the terrain could be crucial as the Prodrive team chase a much-needed victory.
The 2008 Jordan Rally will also play host to both the Stobart VK M-Sport and Munchi's World Rally Teams, which are run in conjunction with M-Sport and utilise Ford Focus WRCs. Italian Gigi Galli currently holds fifth place in the championship - two points ahead of Citroën's Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg - and will be chasing a podium finish over the technical gravel stages and spectacular landscapes that make Jordan a unique rallying experience.
Galli is joined in the Stobart line-up by Britain's Matthew Wilson and Norwegian Henning Solberg, while Argentina's Luis Perez-Companc and Federico Villagra constitute the Munchi's World Rally Team.
The Suzuki World Rally Team began a full WRC campaign at the start of the year and Sweden's Per-Gunnar Andersson and Finland's Toni Gardemeister will be hoping to continue their points-scoring start to the season in a pair of Suzuki SX4s. The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will also field the former FIA Middle East rally champion Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi in a third official Ford Focus, the Emirati driver making his first WRC appearance since Sweden on an event where he took outright victory last season.
The event is also round two of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC). Frenchman Sébastien Ogier clinched maximum points on the opening round in Mexico, but will be hard-pushed to repeat the feat against fierce competition in Jordan. His closest rivals, Estonian Jaan Mölder and Poland's Michal Kosciuszko, have also made the trip to the Levant in a world-class parade of Junior drivers.
The majority of the remainder of the entry is made up of the region's leading drivers, with Jordanian Amjad Farrah leading a list of competitors that includes the UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi and Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Kuwait's Salah Bin Eidan.
After Thursday afternoon's ceremonial start, the entire event will be centred in the area around the Dead Sea - the lowest point on earth at 427 metres below sea level - and the timetable will be divided into three legs of special stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The gravel sections will run through historical and biblical sites in the Jordan Valley and close to the Baptism site for Jesus and Mount Nebo, where Moses is alleged to have seen the Promised Land.
Days one and two will consist of two identical loops of four stages, repeated twice, with the opening leg including runs through the Suwayma, Mahes, Mount Nebo and Ma'in specials, a service break at the Dead Sea splitting the action from 11.46hrs. There will be 115.18 competitive kilometres on Friday.
Saturday's Turki, Erak Elamir, Shuna and Baptism site specials will also be repeated, but the final leg on Sunday features two runs through the Kafrain, Wadi Shuaib and Jordan River stages, the latter sure to provide a sting in the tail. The final special passes close to the border with Israel and runs for 41.45km. In a total route of 983.44km, 359.26km will be competitive.
Start ceremony - Thursday, April 24th
15:00 - 17.40 hrs Entertainment (traditional Arabic flavour and welcome)
17:53 hrs National Anthem
17:58 hrs First Car on the Starting Ramp
18:00 hrs Ceremonial start
2008 Jordan Rally - leading starters
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (MC) Citroën C4 WRC
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
3. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
5. Gigi Galli (I)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
6. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC
7. Petter Solberg (N)/Philip Mills (GB) Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
8. Conrad Rautenbach (ZW)/David Senior (GB) Citroën C4 WRC
9. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge-Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
10. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
FIA World Rally Championship - positions after round 4:
1. Sébastien Loeb 30 pts
2. Mikko Hirvonen 25 pts
3. Chris Atkinson 22 pts
4. Jari-Matti Latvala 16 pts
5. Gigi Galli 11 pts
6. Dani Sordo 9 pts
6. Petter Solberg 9pts, etc
1. BP Ford Abu Dhabi 44 pts
2. Citroën Total 41 pts
3. Subaru 33 pts
4. Stobart VK M-Sport 22 pts
5. Munchi's Rally Team 10 pts
6. Suzuki 6 pts
For further media information:
Neil Perkins, 2008 Jordan Rally Media Office Manager, Main Media Centre, King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Tel: + 962 5 3560054 or Mobile: + 962 79 6920416, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org