For the first time in the history of the World Rally Championship, crews will travel to the Middle East for the fifth event of the 2008 season. The debutant Rally Jordan is set to be a gruelling challenge of hard-base sandy roads that sprawl through the region’s desert plains from the rally base alongside the Dead Sea.
Located just below the northern Jordan city of Amman, Rally HQ and the service park promise a spectacular welcome for crews. Based on the banks of the Dead Sea, it is the lowest point on earth at 408 metres below sea level. Most of the rally is run below sea level, making for a stark contrast to the altitude of the last two events in Mexico and Argentina. The roads that wind through the Jordan Valley reach as low as 400 metres below sea level, and the only altitude section in the Rumman forests rises to just over 1000 metres, past the biblical site of Mount Nebo.
Petter Solberg: “I did the recce in Jordan last year and I was very happy to have the chance to look at the roads. It will be a new event for everyone so we are doing all we can now, using the notes from the recce to prepare as best we can and try and be in the best shape for the rally. It may be possible to do the rally well with new pace notes and no experience of the roads, but I’m just trying to do things 110 per cent, and if the recce gives us even a slight advantage, it was worth it. It’s a brand new event but we have the same mentality and approach to it as any other event, as we continue in the way that works best for us. The unseen roads are quite tricky, and there are a lot of crests. It’s quite wide, but it’s a little difficult to read the road surface and know just how much to push.”
Chris Atkinson: “I haven’t been to Jordan and don’t really know what to expect. I’ve heard the roads are in quite good condition, but it’s going to be difficult first time there having not done the recce last year. It’s very interesting to go to a country like that anyway as an experience, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going out a few days earlier to look around and see Petra, as it’s not every day we’ll come here. The fact that no-one has competed here before may even things up a little, but we know that the same guys will always be fast anywhere. At this part of the season it’s all about linking events to build momentum for the next few rounds.”
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