25 Apr 08
With three changes of the lead in four stages, the opening morning of the Junior World Rally Championship on Jordan Rally was typically frenetic. Sweden’s Patrik Sandell (Renault) emerged as the leader, 18.5 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier (Citroen).
Sandell was fastest on three of the morning’s four stages, but relinquished the lead to Ogier in stage two after the Frenchman edged him for fastest time through the longest test of the morning, Mahes.
Sandell knew his slender advantage would go when he lost the brakes on his three-year-old Clio at the mid-point of the stage. “I’m running some aggressive pads on the car, I think they were too aggressive. They over-heated and we had nothing. Okay, they will cool down and come back.”
They did just that, and a brace of quickest times was enough to put the 2006 Junior title winner back at the top of the stack. Ogier was disappointed at having lost the lead, but admitted he was grateful to be back in service after his C2 S1600 developed a fuel pressure problem in the morning’s final stage. “It cost us about 15 seconds in there,” he said. “I hope we can get it fixed in service. Apart from that, it’s been okay, but it’s just hard to commit in places. The road is hard to read.”
Jaan Molder was third and the leading Suzuki Swift. He and his Suzuki Sport Europe team-mate Michal Kosciuszko were both suffering from running the wrong dampers. The softer suspension left both cars understeering in slow corners and oversteering in the quicker bends. Molder was 17 seconds behind Ogier, with his team-mate a further 20 behind. “My morning didn’t start too well,” said Molder. “I went off and stopped against a bank in the first stage. Then with the suspension, I wasn’t really driving at more than 60 or 70 per cent. I have a good memory though, so I’m sure we can go faster through the re-run stages this afternoon.”
Fifth-placed Alessandro Bettega was another driver with the wrong set-up; the Italian’s Clio was too stiff - with his cause not helped by bending the steering in the second stage. Fellow Clio driver Gilles Schammel was pleased with his early sixth place on his first gravel outing in the car. Schammel’s event had not started in the best way, he suffered a road accident on the second day of the recce, but he was in confident mood when he arrived back in the service park alongside the Dead Sea.
After a 30-minute service, the cars return to the same loop of stages this afternoon - albeit with the temperature rising all of the time. All of the drivers commented on the heat in the cars, but Ireland’s Shaun Gallagher admitted he was struggling. “This heat’s killing me,” said the seventh-placed Citroen driver. “I don’t like it. But I’ll keep pushing on.”