Pons Pulls Clear in Jordan Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Xevi Pons took a second straight victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship after an incredibly tough battle at Rally Jordan. The Spaniard showed all of his extensive experience at...
Pons Pulls Clear in Jordan
Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Xevi Pons took a second straight victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship after an incredibly tough battle at Rally Jordan.
The Spaniard showed all of his extensive experience at the top level of rallying to drive impeccably throughout the event and take advantage of the high rate of attrition in the fierce heat of Jordan's desert roads to record back-to-back wins in the S-WRC following his triumph at the previous round in Mexico.
Six Ford Fiesta S2000s were present in Jordan, with five fighting for S-WRC honours and Khalid Al Qassimi registered for the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) and Dubai resident Janne Tuohino registered for both series.
The opening day of the rally set the tone for what became a supremely tough challenge for the crews on the loose gravel roads by the Dead Sea in the Middle Eastern Kingdom. Only two S-WRC crews made it to the finish of the opening day, and both were Ford Fiesta S2000s. The lead changed hands throughout as the arduous conditions took their toll on the field. First to fall by the wayside was Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Jari Ketomaa, who was forced to retire due to a mechanical issue just as the rally began. Fellow Finn Janne Tuohino then crashed his Ford Fiesta S2000 out of the rally after he missed a turn and went down a steep banking, making it impossible to get back onto the stage but with minimal damage to the car.
Michal Kosciuszko had been setting some excellent times and held the lead with two stages left, but the Pole was frustrated when an alternator drive belt failure stopped his challenge in its tracks. Meanwhile, Pons was making steady progress after a cautious opening run to hold second and young Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa made an excellent start to the event to hold a 21.1 second lead after seven tumultuous stages on the first day.
Friday saw competitors take on the longest day of the rally featuring 138.28km, and it provided another huge challenge for the S-WRC crews. Restarting under SuperRally rules Jari Ketomaa went fastest on the opening stage, only for his luck to run out quickly again as a broken alternator belt forced him to retire early for the second day in a row. Michal Kosciuszko showed excellent pace on day two after re-starting, despite suffering from serious back pain caused by a heavy impact a jump, and fought his way up to second in the S-WRC standings. Also SuperRallying was Janne Tuohino, who had been making good progress until he was halted by a clutch problem that forced him to a stop prior to the final stage.
Early leader Sousa's great run was hampered by Jordan's local fauna as a fly in his cockpit distracted him and he had to slow for a dog that was sleeping in the middle of the road. However, his chance of a maiden S-WRC win was lost on the final stage of the day when he half-rolled his Ford Fiesta S2000 onto its side and punctured the rear-left tyre. After stopping to change it his car then ground to a halt close to the stage end due to a fuel problem, and he was eventually excluded for a sporting infringement after trying to get the car back to service. All that drama meant Pons was the only S-WRC driver to complete all of the stages, building himself a comfortable class lead and moving to tenth overall in the rally in the process. Starting the Middle East Rally Championship round on the same day, WRC regular Khalid Al-Qassimi set and excellent pace throughout the day to place his Ford Fiesta S2000 at the head of the regional championship's competitive field.
The final day of the event was no less dramatic for a number of the Ford Fiesta S2000 crews. Michal Kosciuszko again started by setting good times in the morning before a fire under the bonnet on SS15 Bahath caused him to lose time as he extinguished it. However, worse was to come as on the following SS16 Shuna he misjudged a corner and rolled down a steep incline. He and co-driver Maciek Szczepaniak were taken to hospital as a precaution but did not suffer serious injury.
Janne Tuohino's tough weekend at Jordan Rally finally ended when a mechanical issue forced him to retire on the final loop of stages, but compatriot Jari Ketomaa enjoyed a trouble-free run to the finish and gained valuable mileage in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Khalid Al-Qassimi suffered a similar fate, forced into retirement 2.40km from the end of SS15 Bahath while leading the MERC runners. Xevi Pons drove at a measured pace to ensure he capitalised upon his strong position at the head of the field and brought his Ford Fiesta S2000 home for another outstanding win in the S-WRC series.
The results from Jordan Rally leave Pons ten points clear of his nearest rivals P-G Andersson and Eyvind Brynildsen at the head of the S-WRC drivers' championship, and his Nupel Racing Global Racing Team on top of the team standings after three rounds.
Xevi Pons said:
"I am very happy with this result. At the start I did not have a good feeling with the car and I was not driving with confidence. Then we made a few changes and I started to feel better, and we had no big problems like the other drivers. To get to the finish on a very hard event like this and win is perfect. It is nice to be leading the championship and going to New Zealand next because it is a good rally for me when I have been there before, and it should be possible to get a good result."
Janne Tuohino said:
"This was not a good event for us. On the first day we were a few kilometres into the third stage when we went off at corner after I braked too late. We just went straight off and although there was no real damage to the car it was a steep hill and we couldn't get back up again. Then we had the problem with clutch the next day. By the end we just wanted to drive safely with no problems and forget about this one so we can concentrate on the next event."
Jari Ketomaa said:
"It has been such a hard weekend for us. On the first day we had a problem when a bolt got stuck between the flywheel and the gearbox just before the start, then on the second day we won the first stage before we had a problem with the alternator. It was disappointing for the team and our sponsors as they have worked so hard leading up to the event. We managed to get some good time in the car on the last day though and our pace was good so that is positive. We are still confident we can challenge at the front and are looking forward to New Zealand."
Khalid Al-Qassimi said:
"I am really disappointed, we were driving well and comfortably leading, so to lose out on the possibility of finishing on the podium is frustrating. In rallying you never know what to expect, anything can happen, but I have taken a lot away from this event and I hope to be able to use this to my advantage in Saudi Arabia, where I compete in two weeks."
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
"Xevi Pons has turned in another fantastic performance in the S-WRC to win with the Ford Fiesta S2000 again. To get through such a difficult event when so many others had problems is a great credit to Xevi."