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GP Week : Issue 75
The kingdom of Jordan, including the lowest point on earth, returns to the WRC calendar this week. MARTIN HOLMES previews an intriguing event ... THERE are special things about this recent addition to the world rally championship series, being run this year with world status for just the second time. Not only has this been the sole Arab event in the calendar for more than 30 years, since the days the world championship went to Morocco, or that it is run literally at the bottom of the world, it is the one FIA championship rally in which a former driver, now King of the land, twice finished the event in previous years in a podium position! The unexpected is never far away on this event. As on Jordan's WRC appearance in 2008, the headquarters of the event is at the Dead Sea to the west of the country's capital Amman -- the lowest place on earth. Since the 2008 event there have been some specific changes. The start of the event will be held to the north of the capital Amman at the historic city of Jerash with the rally then heading cross the country towards the traditional stage region between Amman and the Dead Sea. Also, under the new alternative format arrangements offered by the FIA, the rally will run be 24 hours earlier than usual, so that this three day event now runs from Thursday through to Saturday, to fit in the traditions of the Islamic weekend. And thirdly, for the first time since Japan 2004, an FIA world rally championship event will double-up as a regional championship event as well. Drivers who elect to run only in the two-day MERC category will only tackle the stages on the Friday and Saturday, but it is possible for competitors who also wish to compete in the world championship category to drive the Thursday stages as well. Nine registered WRC entries have been entered. Citroen comes with the same four official cars that it had in Sweden -- indeed Loeb's is to be the same one which he drove two years ago in Jordan when he came to an abrupt stop on a road section. Citroen's Total team drivers have been testing recently in Spain and their Junior drivers in France. Ford BP comes with same cars as in Sweden, while Stobart comes with the same cars as in Mexico. As low as you can go! 42