MERC: Jordan Rally preview

Marlboro announces its sponsorship for the Jordan International Rally, the fifth event in the seven-round 2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship calendar. The rally will be based in Amman and takes place on September 26/27th over loose surface...

Marlboro announces its sponsorship for the Jordan International Rally, the fifth event in the seven-round 2002 FIA Middle East Rally Championship calendar. The rally will be based in Amman and takes place on September 26/27th over loose surface special stages in the deserts to the south of the capital.

The Jordan International Rally, has been one of the most popular rounds of the regional rally series for many years and its return is a welcome boost to the championship, which began in Qatar back in February and will draw to a close with the final round in Dubai at the start of December.

Dubai-based multiple regional champion Mohammed bin Sulayem was the early leader of the series, following victories in Qatar , Bahrain & Syria and he looks set to be joined on the entry list by the leading Marlboro Rally Team Saudi Arabia driver Abdullah Bakhashab, Qatar's Hamed Al-Sowaidi and Sharjah's Abdullah Al-Qassimi - all four drivers wheeling out powerful state-of-the-art World Rally Cars.

The entry will be bolstered by a host of Jordan's top rally drivers and many of the protagonists battling it out for supremacy in the Group N 'showroom' championship and the FIA 1600 series.

The rally starts on September 26th with a Super Special stage in the city.of Amman , The second day draws to a close with the finishing ceremony in the city and a repeat of the Super Special stage. Other timed special stages will run in the deserts adjacent to the Desert Highway, which runs south from Amman towards Aqaba and Petra.

Jordanian rally driver Marouf Abu Samra holds the host nation's strongest chance of taking victory in the Jordan International Rally, Abu Samra is putting the final preparations to his challenge for overall success in a Group A Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6, which will be run by the experienced Ralliart Germany operation. Last year Abu Samra and co-driver Amjad Shamaylih were fourth overall and the leading local crew in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 5.

Their car lacks the power and development of the series regulars, who have entered the three-day special stage rally in powerful World Rally Cars. But Abu Samra has knowledge of the local area and the special stages and should be Jordan's brightest hope for an outright win.

Fellow countryman Ahmad Daoud is the leader of the 2002 Jordan National Rally Championship and is bidding to become the first ever Jordanian rally driver to win the local series on three occasions. He has entered the ex-Qassimi Mitsubishi Lancer Evo5 in a bid to extend his advantage in the national competition.

Faris Bustami is a former Jordan national champion and a regular competitor in the Group N category of the FIA regional series. He is set to take the start of the Marlboro-supported Jordan International Rally in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4.

This year's Jordan International Rally, should be the most exciting for many years, with four of the region's leading drivers bidding for success at the wheel of hi-tech World Rally Cars built to WRC specification.

This event is the fifth round of the 2002 FIA Middle East rally championship and has already unearthed a potential star of the future in Qatar's Hamed Al-Sowaidi, the youngest of four potential winners across the deserts of Jordan later this month.

The Doha-based youngster set some impressive stage times during the opening event in Qatar, but badly damaged his car in Bahrain after a series of accidents and suffered from a lack of tarmac rallying experience when the series resumed in Lebanon in July. His Subaru Impreza WRC is looked after on events by a team under the management of Ireland's Gary Emmett and his manager is confident that Sowaidi could win a round of the series this year.

To win the Jordan Rally, first Sowaidi must overcome the daunting challenge of 11-times former winner Mohammed Ben Sulayem in his Ford Focus WRC,

prepared and run by M-Sport of the UK. Sulayem, co-driven this year by John Spiller, is the master of the Jordan deserts and is keen to wrap up his 14th title with victory on this Marlboro-supported rally. The third of the leading quartet will be Sharjah's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi in a second Ford Focus WRC. Al-Qassimi, the former Group N regional champion, graduated from a Mitsubishi Lancer to the World Rally Car at the start of the year and continues to improve on each rally. He missed the Rally of Lebanon to concentrate on the gravel rounds of the series and has an impressive track record on fast, open desert rallies, such as the UAE, Dubai and Jordan events.

The potential winning quartet is completed by former regional champion Abdullah Bakhashab from Saudi Arabia. He returned to the series at the start of the season after several years competing in the FIA Teams Cup section of the World Rally Championship and planned to win the series in a Czech-built Toyota Corolla.

But mechanical problems cost him and Ulster co-driver Bobby Willis a finish in Qatar and the pair finished second to Ben Sulayem in Bahrain back in March. The decision to switch allegiance to a Ford Focus backfired cruelly in Lebanon when the car caught fire at the end of a special stage.

Bakhashab's Marlboro-supported team needs a top finish at all costs inJordan to keep their slim championship aspirations alive.after another DNF in Syria rally earlier this month.


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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Bobby Willis , Faris Bustami
Teams M-Sport