Citroën is gunning for another victory in Jordan
The Citroën Total World Rally Team has won the last two rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship thanks to Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in Mexico, and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in Portugal. The two crews will both be gunning for another victory on gravel in the fourth event held in Jordan. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena already know the ropes as they won this rally held beside the Dead Sea last season!
The championship title battle looks like it’s going to be very close, but that’s no real surprise
After the snow in Rally Sweden, the altitude of Rally Mexico and the more traditional route of Rally Portugal, the teams in the FIA World Rally Championship will do battle in Jordan. The third running of the blue riband event in the Middle East is being run over its usual itinerary. The service park overlooks the Dead Sea and the start will be given in the ancient city of Jerash, while the stages are laid out in the Jordanian desert, known as the cradle of humanity.
Seven out of the ten stages are identical to the ones used in 2010, and the other three have been mainly selected from the 2008 route.
Sébastien Loeb is very much at home on this type of terrain, and his only aim is to add a sixty-fourth victory to his tally: “The championship title battle looks like it’s going to be very close, but that’s no real surprise. There are at least five victory contenders at the start of each round, so the Jordanian rally will be a hotly-contested one.”
Like the majority of rallies on gravel, sweeping will add an additional factor to the mix: “Depending on the sectors, a more or less thick layer of dust covers the road,” Loeb adds; “The quality of the surface changes according to the passage of the cars. The more the stages are swept, the quicker they become. It’s better not to be first out on the road as you won’t be penalized by these conditions. We’re setting off in second place on Thursday. It’s not the best position but we’ll have to try and stay in contact with the front-runners to be in with a chance of winning.”
“The roads are fairly quick and have a very hard surface,” adds Sébastien Ogier. “Once the line’s been swept you have excellent grip, almost identical to that on asphalt. On the other hand, in this desert countryside the lack of landmarks is a real problem so the notes are even more important than elsewhere.”
“By starting in fourth place on the first day, we’ve got a slight advantage, but others will be even better placed,” continues the recent winner of Rally Portugal. “We have to get among the front-runners to be in a position to battle for the win at the end. Once again, it’s going to be a very closely-fought scrap and it’s important to bag good points for both championships.”
The rally’s schedule has been adapted to fit in with the Middle-Eastern weekend. The shakedown will take place on Wednesday 13th April at 15h00. The start of the first stage will be given on Thursday morning after a passage through Jerash. The finish will take place on Saturday 16th April in the late afternoon after 20 stages.
Three questions to Sven Smeets, the Citroën Racing Team Manager
Was there ever any doubt about Citroën Racing taking part in Rally Jordan?
“We kept a very close eye on the situation in the region in liaison with the PSA Group management, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the FIA and the Rally Jordan organizers. Our priority was the safety of our personnel and our suppliers. Only when we’d obtained the right guarantees did we confirm our participation in the event.”
What changes did you have to make to the logistics?
“The major logistical difficulty of Rally Jordan is transporting the equipment we use in Europe. Our trucks are too big to be freighted by air so we have to use sea transport. The initial plan was to go through the Suez canal and land in Aqaba in the south of Jordan. But the situation in Egypt made the trip through the canal difficult, so we decided to land in Tartous in Syria. Given the recent events there this solution was no longer possible. Together with Ford, Northone Sport, Michelin and a few private teams we chartered a boat for Haïfa, in Israel. All the equipment should arrive at the Dead Sea on Monday night.”
From a sporting point of view, how do you see Rally Jordan unfolding?
“The main specificity of this rally is the number of kilometers on Thursday (Day 1), a total of seventy. This means that it’ll be impossible for a driver starting from fifth or sixth place to open up a big gap thanks to sweeping. Normally speaking, the classification of the first leg should be similar to the starting order. Even so, if a driver loses one or two minutes the first day his chances of victory are still intact. Friday will be important but not vital in determining the outcome because of the number of kilometers on Saturday. A new, harder-wearing Michelin tyre will also appear in this rally We haven’t yet fully evaluated its endurance, and its characteristics could modify the way in which the drivers can push depending on road conditions.”
Citroën Racing’s hot tips!
Two unmissable experiences in Jordan: float in the Dead Sea and gaze in admiration at the ancient city of Petra 200 km from the service park. . All the nearby restaurants are in the Dead Sea hotels: in the heart of the Marriot, we recommend the Italian Il Terrazzo as well as Cascades BBQ Terrace, open in spring weather permitting. Not far away is the Ashur Pizza & Grill on the side of the Kempinski swimming pool. And it’s always possible to be invited to Citroën Racing for lunch or dinner!