Final countdown begins to Jordan's place in FIA Motorsport History

22.04.2008: Final countdown begins to Jordan's place in FIA Motorsport History

• World’s top rallying stars arrive at the Dead Sea for the 2008 Jordan

• UAE, Qatari, Kuwaiti, Lebanese and Saudi drivers support Jordan’s
   WRC debut

2008 JORDAN RALLY, April 24th-April 27th 2008 2008 FIA World Rally Championship, round 5

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will create history this week by becoming the first Arab nation to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the modern era of international rallying. Jordan’s week in the spotlight has been the result of over three years’ detailed preparations by staff at Jordan Motorsport in Amman, which is run under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al-Hussein.

The event has been tailor-made to match the exacting requirements of the sport’s governing body, the FIA, and has attracted the world’s leading drivers, who will compete against the region’s finest rallying talent for the first time over 22 special stages in the Dead Sea region of the Kingdom between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon.

The event has also attracted a number of distinguished guests from the world of motor sport and several thousand spectators from all around the globe are expected to literally descend upon the lowest place on earth to witness the high-speed special stage action.

The star attractions are likely to be the French rallying superstar Sébastien Loeb – chasing a record-breaking 40th career WRC win – and his arch Finnish rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, who drive for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and will be making their first visits to Jordan. Hirvonen lies second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Loeb and is confident that he can challenge the World Champion in Jordan.

"I've never been here, but I’ve spoken to some drivers who have and seen photographs from our team, who visited the candidate rally last year," said the Finn. "The roads look smooth and it seems as though the organisers have done a good job in preparing them. They look fast and flowing, like Finland but without the jumps, so if that's the case they should be good for me."

While the world’s media focuses on the battle between the WRC’s leading drivers, the majority of the region’s top rally drivers will be fighting for honours in the showroom or Group N category. With the exception of the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi – winner of the official candidate event in Jordan last year who drives a factory Ford Focus - his former rivals have entered a number of privately-run Subarus and Mitsubishis.

Former Jordan Rally winner and regular PWRC runner Amjad Farrah leads an 11-strong home contingent in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and is seeded at 33. Fellow Jordanians Faris Bustami, Ameer Najjar, Ala’ Khalifeh, Faris Hijazi, Mazen Tantash, Ammar Hijazi, Issa Abu Jamous, Tamer Tabaa, Abir Batikhi and Ahmad Mihyar have ensured that the host nation is well supported on this flagship event for Middle East motorsport.

The UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi is a former regional Group N champion and is joined on the entry list by fellow Emirati Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, Both have tackled the Jordan Rally many times in the past and are delighted to be able to support the event on its WRC debut.

In the absence of the Arab world’s top driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah – who is tackling the Central Europe Rally in Hungary and Romania with the X-raid team – a returning Mubarak Al-Hajri and Khalid Al-Suwaidi represent the State of Qatar in a pair of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. Saleh Bin Eidan is the sole Kuwaiti entrant and the recent Kuwait Rally winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi flies the Saudi Arabian flag in Jordan, alongside his British co-driver Steve Lancaster.

Lebanese veteran Michel Saleh would not have missed Jordan’s WRC debut for the world and the charismatic UAE-based driver is joined by co-driver Ziad Chehab, young London-based Lebanese driver Nick Georgiou and co-driver Joseph Matar to ensure that nearby Lebanon has a four-man contingent on the entry list.

Saleh has the distinction of competing in over 20 Jordan rallies and was a competitor in the first Jordan Rally back in 1981. The Lebanese, en route to the Rally of Cyprus, was persuaded to take part in the event by Toyota’s Jordan agent George Haddad and went on to win outright in a Toyota Celica 2000 GT. He followed up that success with victory again in 1982.

The event fires into life at the Dead Sea from 15.00hrs on Thursday afternoon, when all teams will attend the traditional ceremonial start.

Traditional Arabic entertainment will be followed by the presentation of all the drivers and the afternoon’s festivities will conclude with a spectacular firework display on the shores of the Dead Sea.


- Neil Perkins,-


22.04.2008 / MaP

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