17 May 08
And now for something completely different. After the rain, mud and cold of Rally Argentina, round five of the 2008 World Championship presents the WRC drivers with the complete opposite - the scorching heat and desert roads of the Jordan Rally.
Temperatures could be as high at 40 degrees Celsius when this brand new round of the WRC series gets underway on 25 April, and there’s not much chance of rain in the Jordan valley at this time of year, either.
The rally is based from the Dead Sea area and comprises a total of 22 hard packed gravel stages set against a spectacular desert backdrop. It’s fair to say that while many rounds of the WRC are rightly proud of the areas through which their rallies pass, when it comes to the number of historical and biblical locations, Jordan has the edge: Day one includes the Mount Nebo stage (SS3) - from where Moses looked out across the Holy Land, while on day two SS12 winds past the site of Jesus Christ's baptism (the stage is actually called ‘Baptism Site’). The rally also passes close to the ancient rock palace of Petra - officially one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Altitude - or a lack of it - is another unique feature of this rally. The Dead Sea service park is located 450 metres below sea level at the lowest land point on earth. From there the stages branch out into the desert and forest areas of the region, climbing as high as 675metres (SS4) and dropping as low as -400 metres (SS1 and SS12).
The fact that the rally has never been part of the WRC calendar before means most of the top competitors have about the same amount of inexperience - which should be a bonus for some of the championship’s younger drivers. But there are some exceptions. In 2007 Subaru’s Petter Solberg and Citroen’s Dani Sordo took part in the recce - when the event was part of the Middle East Rally Championship - while Khalid Al Qassimi of the BP-Ford Team actually won the rally that year.
Predicting who will go well on this event is tricky. It’s a new challenge and could well throw up some surprises. On the basis of current form, however, Sebastien Loeb is looking good. After a dominant performance in Argentina - when he took WRC win 39 and moved into the lead of the 2008 championship - the Frenchman must be odds-on favourite for another top result. But the fact that Dani Sordo has some prior experience of the conditions - and the same super reliable Citroen C4 WRC at his disposal - could mean Loeb faces some stiff competition from within the Total Citroen camp.
Certainly the BP Ford duo of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala will be keen to make amends after a disappointing outing in Argentina. The team also has the benefit of Middle East expert Al Qassimi who is back in the fold after missing rounds three and four.
Look out too for the resurgent Subaru team. Argentina showed they’ve squeezed some more speed out of the Impreza WRC2007, and only a freak electrical fault denied them a double podium. With a car capable of winning stages and the increasing rivalry between Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson spurring them both on, Jordan could be good for the boys in blue and yellow.
A total of 16 WRC cars will start the rally, including Henning Solberg and Gigi Galli as nominated scorers for the Stobart Ford team, Luis Perez Companc and Federico Villagra at the Munchi’s squad, while Gardemeister and Andersson will once again fly the flag for Suzuki. Click here to read more about the entry list: Rally Jordan entry list
The rally also counts as round two of the 2008 J-WRC, and 16 competitors will be back in action after the last round in Mexico. Click here to read our J-WRC preview:
Rally Jordan J-WRC preview