The Citroen Total World Rally Team driver won in Jordan last season and is currently tied with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen at the top of the title standings.
Loeb, who will be co-driven as usual by Daniel Elena in his Citroen DS3 WRC, said: “The championship title battle looks like it’s going to be very close, but that’s no real surprise. There are at least five victory contenders at the start of each round, so the Jordan Rally will be a hotly-contested one.”
The 37-year-old French ace expects road cleaning to be a big factor on the gravel stages of the Middle East event.
“A thick layer of dust covers the road,” he said. “The quality of the surface changes according to the passage of the cars. The more the stages are swept, the quicker they become. It’s better not to be first out on the road as you won’t be penalised by these conditions. We’re setting off in second place on Thursday. It’s not the best position but we’ll have to try and stay in contact with the frontrunners to be in with a chance of winning.”
One of Loeb’s fiercest rivals for victory in Jordan will be his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier, winner of the last round in Portugal in late March. He admits his starting position of fourth on the road on day one will hand him a slight edge.
“By starting in fourth place on the first day, we’ve got a slight advantage, but others will be even better placed,” said Ogier. “We have to get among the frontrunners to be in a position to battle for the win at the end. Once again, it’s going to be a very closely fought scrap and it’s important to bag good points for both championships.”