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GP Week : Issue 112
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH ... Citroen and Ford have emerged joint leaders of the World Rally Championship after the first four rounds, when Sebastien Ogier scored his second successive victory, beating Jari-Matti Latvala to the top place by just 0.2 second in Jordan. It was the smallest winning margin in the history of special stage world rallying. The running of Jordan Rally was threatened by chaotic travel plans made by the major teams and promoters, which were compounded by unforeseen problems and led to the first day of the event being cancelled, but ended with a fascinatingly exciting event. In the support SWRC category the Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa claimed his first win in the series after a second successive disappointment for Nasser Al Attiyah. This was the rally which for a long time looked like it might never happen, and ended up being one of the most thrilling finishes on record. The pre-rally transportation problems were most unfortunate, the teams giving the impression that excuses were being made to avoid the need to the travel to the Middle East at this time. There were changes to travel plans at a late point of time, with the boat carrying equipment eventually breaking down completely and needing to be towed into port before unloading could begin. But what an event it turned out to be! Once again running order tactics were vital for success, but with one day less of actual competition there were fewer circumstances which called for tactical actions than last year. This time there was no controversy. It was a fair fight to the end. So when the rally eventually got going, with championship leader Mikko Hirvonen running first car on the road, ahead of Sebastien Loeb being disadvantaged, later drivers, notably Latvala and Petter Solberg, had high hopes. Hirvonen really suffered but Loeb did well to keep in touch with Ogier until Latvala pulled up to second place near the end of Friday, creating the major tactical challenge of the event. Latvala was just 6.4 seconds behind Ogier, but then sacrificed over 20 seconds in order to ensure he would start third car on the road, not second, on the final day. It was a ploy which worked a treat. Throughout the final day he watched as Ogier suffered at the head of the field, just as Hirvonen had done the day before, and Latvala’s deficit came tumbling down. With just two stages to go he was just 5.3 seconds behind and on the penultimate stage he took the lead – by just 0.5 seconds. Could the race for the lead be closer? The final stage was the ‘Power Stage’, inserted on rallies to resurrect interest if the event was flagging in excitement, but its intended purpose was unnecessary. With top drivers running on the stage in reverse order, there was no benefit either way. A straight fight to the finish. It was Ogier who did it, and waiting to congratulate him was Latvala. 36