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GP Week : Issue 112
Loeb had hung on in third place, in front of Hirvonen whose miseries were increased by power steering trouble. Petter Solberg’s event never happened quite as he wanted, as he went off the road on the final morning, with his car down a hill stuck in a pile of rocks. Best ‘customer’ driver was Matthew Wilson, who passed Kimi Raikkonen on the final afternoon to finish fifth. Raikkonen had one of the few punctures on the event. Michelin had supplied some stronger tyres for this event, and immediately the previous criticism from the teams evaporated. Villagra, Al Qassimi and Kuipers all had clean runs and scored championship points. Troubled drivers included Mads Ostberg who stopped when lying sixth with gearbox trouble, and Henning Solberg (on his 100th WRC event) when a rogue piece of rubber blocked his engine lubricant supply. Daniel Oliveira made his second appearance with his Mini, still in S2000 specification, but had to stop early on the first day with a water leak. In the championship stakes Citroen and Ford are now equal on points in the Manufacturers’ series, though with three wins to their credit Citroen hold the lead in the series. Eight points cover the top four competitors in the Drivers’ series with Sebastien Loeb now in the lead by two points from Mikko Hirvonen. In third place Sebastien Ogier has become the first driver to gain the maximum possible points tally under the new system, 28 in total for victory plus his fastest time on the Power Stage, just three points ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. The nearest of the other drivers over 35 points behind the gang of four. The championship itself has not looked better for many years. At the next event the official Mini team will be present with the World Rally Car version of the current John Cooper Works 4x4 turbo cars. Citroen Competition director Olivier Quesnel said after the event that nobody could fail to be impressed at a sport where four drivers are so equal at the top. It was a hint that, once he had forgotten his previous misgivings, he was happy to be in Jordan. And of course, his team’s win must have helped! Jordan Rally also qualified for the FIA’s regional Middle East series, in which competitors were invited to compete in the full WRC event as well. Al Attiyah held a 10 minute lead over Al Ketbi’s Skoda Fabia S2000 when he retired, and the Dubai driver went on to win the category by nearly 11 minutes. Several MERC drivers were forced to cancel their plans to travel to Jordan for domestic reasons, but one most disappointed driver was Jordanian Ammar Hijazi, whose power steering failed on his Skoda on the pre-event Shakedown test and he was unable to take the start. He had been appointed as the official Jordanian Guest driver in the SWRC series. Meanwhile, in the Middle Eastern Rally Championships 38