Spaniard Sordo takes day one lead in pulsating Jordan Rally

Spaniard Sordo takes day one lead in pulsating Jordan Rally

25.04.2008: Spaniard Sordo takes day one lead in pulsating Jordan Rally

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

- World Champion Loeb holds second position

- Sweden's Patrick Sandell leads JWRC category

Spaniard Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti held a mere 1.1 second overall lead in the 2008 Jordan Rally after the opening leg's eight timed special stages in punishing heat in the Dear Sea area of the Hashemite Kingdom on Friday.

Team mates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena pressured them towards the end on a day dominated by the unique challenge of driving over the challenging Jordanian terrain. "The stages were particularly tricky this morning, where grip and traction were changing all the time," said Loeb. "But we made some changes at service and it was much better this afternoon."

Ford team mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen were third and fourth at the end of day one, but Petter Solberg and the factory Suzukis hit trouble. Sweden's Patrick Sandell led the JWRC category by 54.8 seconds in his nimble Renault Clio.

Sordo and Solberg set the joint fastest time in the opening Suwayma special stage, although Hirvonen was a mere 0.5 seconds adrift. Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson left the road in the first of the factory Suzuki SX4s and was forced to retire. He was soon joined by team mate Toni Gardemeister, as the Japanese team made a miserable start to the fifth round of the WRC.

Sordo was fastest again in the Mahes special and moved into the outright lead, with Solberg and Latvala his closest rivals. All drivers complained that the stage surfaces were treacherously slippery and no-one was prepared to push and take risks. "It was just so slippery on those early stages," said Latvala. "The grip was unpredictable and the priority was not to make a mistake."

Sordo was again the form driver in the Mount Nebo stage and extended his overall lead over Solberg to 15.1 seconds, although the top seven were closely bunched. Loeb set his first fastest time in the Mai'n special and moved up to third position, but several of the leaders survived small spins on the slippery surfaces, as Sordo arrived at the major service break with a 13.8 second lead over Latvala. Petter Solberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Chris Atkinson completed the top six.

Sandell headed JWRC championship leader Sébastien Ogier by 18.5 seconds in the JWRC category, with Estonian Jaan Molder in third place. Brake problems and overheating plagued several of the leading Juniors over the abrasive gravel stages.

Latvala was fastest out of the blocks in the fifth stage, where thousands of spectators had gathered to witness the action at the popular water splash - the lowest major sporting venue in the world at 400 metres below sea level - including a fascinated HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, chairman of Jordan Motorsport.

The Finn was a second quicker than Loeb, although Sordo maintained a 9.8-second lead over the Ford driver. Loeb was fastest on the re-run of the Mahes special, but Sordo maintained his lead heading into the second Mount Nebo stage, which wound its way along the spectacular mountain track.

The Frenchman was again quickest on the mountain stage and reduced Sordo's overall advantage to just 4.7 seconds before the final Mai'n stage, which reached the rally's highest point of 700 metres above sea level.

Latvala and Hirvonen were in close contention in third and fourth positions, with Atkinson and Henning Solberg completing the top six. Petter Solberg suffered suspension problems and a small fire in the sixth stage, which dropped him out of contention. Italy's Gigi Galli was also in the wars with a damaged rear differential cooler. Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rajhi suffered suspension damage and Jordan's Faris Bustami also retired.

JWRC championship leader Ogier collected time penalties for fixing a fuel pressure problem and then sustained a sixth-stage puncture, handing a comfortable advantage in the Junior category to Sandell.

Loeb was fastest on the final stage of the day and moved to within 1.1 seconds of his Citroen team mate to set up the prospect of a thrilling battle on Saturday. Latvala maintained third position and Hirvonen shadowed his colleague in fourth. Zimbabwe's Conrad Rautenbach looked set for ninth at the end of the day, but the clutch failed on an incline at the end of the final stage and this lifted Federico Villagra into ninth position, as marshals struggled to get the C4 going again in searing heat.

The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi led the Middle East contingent in his official Ford Focus RS in 10th position. The best of the rest was Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, who held 15th overall after seven timed special stages, with Jordan's Ala' Khalifeh in 20th, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi in 21st and young Nick Georgiou in 24th.

Jordan's Mazan Tantash held 26th and Amjad Farrah was plagued by turbo boost problems in 35th. Kuwait's Salah Bin Eidan was 28th and Lebanon's Michel Saleh - the winner of the first Jordan Rally in 1981 - held 30th after seven specials.

Saturday's leg of eight special stages gets underway with the 14km Turki test at 08.53hrs and is followed by repeat runs through the Erak Elamir, Shuna and Baptism site specials, with teams returning to the service park for service around midday. The day's action concludes with the 13km second run near the Baptism site from 15.18hrs.

2008 Jordan Rally - positions at end of day one (unofficial):

1. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC 1h 16m 53.7s

2. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (MC) Citroën C4 WRC 1h 16m 54.8s

3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
   1h 17m 02.2s

4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
    1h 17m 07.1s

5. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
    1h 18m 01.7s

6. Urmo Aava (EE)/Kuldar Sikk (EE) Citroen C4 WRC 1h 18m 53.0s

7. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin )GB) Ford Focus RS WRC07 1h 19m 46.4s

8. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
    1h 20m 16.0s

9. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge-Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 07
    1h 20m 52.9s

10. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Focus RS 1h 20m 58.1s

- Neil Perkins-  photo copyright Willy Weyens


25.04.2008 / MaP

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