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GP Week : Issue 111
MARTIN HOLMES Rally Editor The good news is that the RoRo boat carrying the equipment, including the recce cars, of the major teams competing on forthcoming Jordan Rally, together with the equipmen t of championship promoters North One Sport, finally left Trieste en route to Haifa. The bad news is that it was two days late, on an already tight schedule, and is not expected to reach the Israeli port until 0800 on Monday the 11th, after the time when recce had been due to start in neighbouring Jordan. The organisers have already prepared various pre-rally reschedule scenarios, but no final decision will be taken about timing for recce and shakedown until the boat’s arrival time in Haifa can be more accurately predicted. Although Haifa is only a few hours from Jordan, the equipment must first be unloaded, and then pass through two different frontier controls before reaching Jordan. Meaning, Monday’s rally activities are effectively written off! The battle of Jordan Rally therefore started well before competitors reached the Middle Eastern country, indeed it was actually getting to the country which promises to be the biggest challenge of the event. A late decision by the Citroen team not to join a combined team budget- friendly transport project caused the crisis, urging fellow teams to find alternative routing. The problem was that the original transport route passed through Syria, which the Citroen team did not accept, and alternative transport through Israel had to be arranged for all concerned at short notice instead. This change also affected Ford, Prodrive and the promoters North One Sport who all brought equipment to Jordan. Most of the team’s competition cars and the crews however went to Jordan by air. The character of Jordan Rally itself remains as usual. It is the only fully three day round of the WRC which runs Thursday through Saturday, rather than Friday through Sunday. The Islamic weekend makes this format easier for local fans and organisers alike to attend. The event counts for the support SWRC series, for which this is Round 2. The event is unusual however because the WRC event is run in conjunction with the third round of the FIA’s regional Middle East championship. The MERC category is held on the Friday and Saturday, giving drivers the option to also run on the Thursday, and therefore qualify for the full WRC as well. Of the seven drivers contesting the SWRC category only two (Nasser Al Attiyah and Karl Kruuda) competed in Round 1, Mexico, so the other five, or half the championship contenders will make their first appearance this year in Jordan. Fewer competitors have entered this year’s rally than on the two previous times the WRC visited Jordan. 31 entries have been received for the full event. Of these, nine have been registered for the MERC category, and another nine will appear for the first time on the Friday and qualify only for the MERC event. All 12 drivers who have scored FIA championship points on the two preceding MERC events (Qatar and Kuwait) have entered this event. Al Attiyah comes with maximum points after his two wins. On the combined rally there are 40 crews. Although the route is basically virtually the same as before, the Power Stage itself is the final stage as usual, and this time the car re-grouping will take place just before the stage is run, meaning, only on this stage will the top runners compete in reverse order. The finish of the final stage is only 10km from the service park where the finish podium is also situated. Still the highlight of the rally is the 41km "River Stage", which runs parallel to the River Jordan which marks the border between Israel and Jordan. THE CIRCUS HEADS TO JORDAN ... Despite problematic problems in the region ... 38