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GP Week : Issue 7
“In those days this was a 100 percent desert rally and route marking was always tricky,” he recalls. “Piles of gravel were placed as marker points and if you mistook these and went wide you did not know what was there. In our case we shot into a deep tank trap and came to a very sudden and final halt!” Bill Gwynne, proprietor of Bill Gwynne Rallyschool International in Britain was one of the first foreign rally people to get to know Abdullah well. “At that time we were just starting our rally school activities,” says Gwynne. “We were invited to Jordan to help train enthusiasts not just in driving skills, but general rally management as well. I worked with Haithem Mufti, who introduced me to someone who was really keen to get involved. This was Abdullah. Abdullah was quite a character, absolutely straight and direct, nothing like you would expect, but he was never alone. He went everywhere with his bodyguards. They were in uniform on big public occasions, less conspicuous at other times.” Gwynne fondly remembers the Opel Manta 400, which he prepared for Abdullah. “He won first time out in this car, which obviously made him happy with me,” he says. “The car was painted in regal Royal Rally Team colours. One day Abdullah and I were practising on a popular stage known as River Stage, quite an unusual place in a supposedly desert country. There was one dodgy ‘don’t go off’ type of bend, with a deep drop into stagnant water on the outside. “Coming up to the bend Abdullah had a third gear spin and ended up with two wheels over the edge. Abdullah looked out of the window and could only see the horrible water below. Eventually we got going again. Abdullah laughed and said ‘that was fun, shall we try it again?’” E very new rally is full of surprises, and Jordan is no exception. A glance at a map of the route for the rally shows that one stage location, run four times (twice in each direction), uses what appears to be a main road that crosses the River Jordan by the Prince Abdullah Bridge. Do not be deceived! Omar Zarou, assistant clerk of the course explained: “The bridge you see on the map is not there any more. Anybody now travelling between Amman and Jerusalem has to go over the King Hussein Bridge about 10km to the north. The road you see on the map is used only by border patrols. Incidentally this is part of the fastest stage of the rally. Things will never be the same once the world championship arrives in Jordan. It seems certain that a non-Arab driver will win the event for the first time, and, apart from fact finding visits in the last couple of years, none of the registered world championship crews have competed on this event, with the exception of Phil Mills. In a sport where a co-driver is always the first suspect when a driver goes off the road, Mills is still allowed into the country, which is quite a show of respect! If they let him in, I am sure they will accept me again. 36