Atkinson a part of motorsport history in Jordan
- 22nd April 2008, 3:48pm
Rally Jordon 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.
The Queenslander has been in outstanding form this season, taking his Impreza WRC2007 to three podiums in the first four events of the season.
The 28-year-old is currently sitting in third place in the Championship. Frenchman Sebastien Loeb leads the way with 30 points, five clear of Mikko Hirvonen on 25, with Atkinson next on 22 points.
Another top five result would maintain the momentum in Atkinson’s stellar 2008 season. However, he has never been to Jordon before, let alone competed there, so it is a step into the great unknown.
He does know that he will face many challenges across the 21 stages and 351 competitive kilometres, both from the terrain and from his fellow World Championship contenders.
“I’ve heard the roads are in quite good condition, but it’s going to be difficult first time there having not even done the recce last year,” Atkinson said.
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.
“I’m really looking forward to it. At this part of the season it’s all about linking events to build momentum for the next few rounds.”
Teammate, Petter Solberg, did reconnaissance of the course last year, and he says the roads will take some getting used to.
“The unseen roads are quite tricky, and there are a lot of crests,” Solberg said.
“It’s quite wide, but it’s a little difficult to read the road surface and know just how much to push.”
Subaru World Rally Team operations director, Paul Howarth, believes the heat will cause teams difficulties.
“Temperature will be a factor here as it’ll be the hottest round of the season so far, so everyone will have an eye on cooling and brake temperature.
The event headquarters are located just below the northern Jordan city of Amman. 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.
The rally uses hard-packed sandy roads on which crews will use Pirelli’s hard compound Scorpion gravel tyre. The normally loose surface has been bonded and hard-packed over the last two years to create the rally’s stage route and provide crews with a very hard surface on which to compete.
While the first few cars to run will inevitably experience a loose covering of sand, surface deterioration shouldn’t be an issue, even as temperatures head towards 40 degrees Celsius.
It does mean, however, that if crews run off line the surface will be far looser and grip reduced significantly. Whilst there is a lot of run-off in the barren desert landscape which may give crews the confidence to push harder in the knowledge there is more chance that mistakes will go relatively unpunished, off-road excursions may still prove costly with soft sand and interspersed rocky outcrops.
The stages offer their own unique challenges in accurately judging distances and defining the roads amid the vast expanse of desert.
Just two weeks after Rally Jordan, crews will commence a flurry of European events with three rallies in five weeks, the hardest stint of the season.
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