MERC: Jordanian drivers to challenge for overall honours

A host of Jordanian drivers are putting together the final touches to their prepararations for the Jordan International Rally, the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which takes place next weekend (July 24/26th) in the...

A host of Jordanian drivers are putting together the final touches to their prepararations for the Jordan International Rally, the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, which takes place next weekend (July 24/26th) in the Hashemite Kingdom with support from Marlboro.

Heading the local contingent are Marouf Abu Samra and co-driver Malek Hariri at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6. The pair are seeded at three behind Abdullah Bakhashab in the Marlboro Team Saudi Arabia Peugeot 206 WRC and Qatar Rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in a Subaru. Fourteen-times regional champion Mohammed Ben Sulayem has won the last seven Jordan rallies, but is not taking part this year.

Former Jordan National Champion Faris Bustami elected to miss the recent Rally of Lebanon to enable his team to put the finishing touches to his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Bustami, who has been a regular face in the Group N category in recent seasons, has opted to enter the Group A section this year as he bids to become the first local driver in history to win the Jordan International Rally.

"I could have gone to Lebanon with my car," said Faris. "But there would not have been much time to change the suspension and the settings afterwards. I wanted to prepare properly for my home rally. I have a good chance this time. It could be one of the most open rallies here for many years. The new tracking system will keep things very evenly matched for everyone."

Nour Nuemi and co-driver Delf Ruf start at 17 and wheel out a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 7 and Nasser Khanfer is seeded at 24 in an Evolution 6. Further down the impressive 48-strong entry list there are no less than 10 further Jordanian drivers keen to tackle the three-day, 20 special stage event, which starts with a televised Super Special on July 24th at 17.00.

Hamza Dirani will be one of the top seeds in the two-wheel drive section at the wheel of his Renault Clio Williams, while one of the most fascinating competitions will be waged between the Jordanian female drivers Abir Bateikhi and Nancy Al-Majali. Abir retired her Group N Toyota in Lebanon two weeks ago and faces Nancy's Ford Escort Cosworth.

Jordan Eyes (Mitsubishi), Mohammed Jumaa (Volvo 240), Ahmad Mihaiar (Toyota), Nader Jabali (Mitsubishi), Jalal Mirza (Ford) and Omran Sakkijha (Peugeot) complete the line-up of conventional rally cars, although championship regular Asem Aref has made the switch to a two-wheel drive Citroen Saxo and will be hoping to achieve success in the FIA 1600 category.

Running a little behind the field of international cars will be four Toyota RAV-4s, prepared and run by Toyota Saudi Arabia. Under the watchful eye of Marlboro driver Abdullah Bakhashab, these four drivers are tackling all rounds of the regional championship. The recent Toyota category of the Rally of Lebanon was won by Saudi Arabia's Majed Al-Ghamdi, although Rashid Al-Hajiri, Rashid Al-Hajri and Amro Shass will be out for revenge in Jordan.

"The Royal Automobile Club of Jordan has always had a policy of encouraging young local drivers to take part in rallying," said Hassan Alaeddin, the chairman of the RACJ. "We are delighted that there are so many local participants in the event this year. It promises to be an exciting weekend's motorsport and a great opportunity for Jordanian drivers to shine on the international stage."

-duby miller

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Faris Bustami
Teams Williams , Citroën World Rally Team