MERC: Jordan Rally preview

Leading regional drivers head from Lebanon to Jordan Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab will be the man to beat when the Jordan International Rally, the third round of the restructured 2003 FIA Middle East rally championship, gets underway with...

Leading regional drivers head from Lebanon to Jordan

Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Bakhashab will be the man to beat when the Jordan International Rally, the third round of the restructured 2003 FIA Middle East rally championship, gets underway with support from Marlboro on Thursday, July 24th.

Bakhashab and Ulster co-driver Bobby Willis tackled the Rally of Lebanon last weekend in a full factory Marlboro Team Saudi Arabia Peugeot 206 WRC and need to add to their points' tally in Jordan after failing to score championship points on the opening round in Qatar back in February as well.

After a four-month lay-off because of the Iraq War, the FIA Middle East rally series resumed in Lebanon and the Jordan Rally follows a mere three weeks after the only tarmac round of the series.

The Royal Automobile Club of Jordan is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the revamped Jordan Rally offers a selection of tricky mountaineous gravel stages near Mount Nebo and faster stages in the Jordan desert, south of Amman.

Rally officials in the capital are putting together the finishing touches to the new-look route, but Bakhashab is looking forward to the challenge he faces in the Hashemite Kingdom. "The switch from May to July will make this the hottest of all the rallies in the championship," said the Saudi star, commenting on the rescheduling of the Jordan Rally.

"The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and I expect the new stages there to take place in stifling heat. Peugeot has developed the 206 to be competitive on rallies like Kenya, Greece and Cyprus and I don't expect the heat to be a problem. We will need to drink plenty of water and be very careful to avoid the risks of dehydration.

"The organisers in Jordan have introduced a new tracking system to enable them to clamp down on competitors who try and shortcut some sections of the route and this is to be applauded. It promises to be an exciting rally.

"There are several evenly-matched drivers in the series this year and the team will need to be at its very best to take the win. After the big disappointment of retiring in Lebanon last weekend it places extra emphasis on taking a top result in Jordan."

Competitive action kicks off on July 24th with a Super-Special stage in Amman. Stages in the desert to the south will take place on July 25th and the Dead Sea area will be used on July 26th. There will be one service park per day.

"We ran our event in September last year and this was a cooler time of year," said Hassan Alaeddin, the chairman of the RACJ. "But the switch from May to July was unavoidable. We are excited about the prospect of returning to the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo areas, which were an integral part of our rally for several years. The stages here are particularly challenging and totally different in their characteristics to the more traditional stages through the desert."

-duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Bobby Willis