A new event awaits the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team as the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers heads to an Arab country for the first time ever next weekend. The Jordan Rally is the fifth round of the 2008 season and will offer a level playing field as WRC crews tackle the fast desert roads for the first time in their careers.
Coming off the back of one of the less successful events in Argentina last month, Jordan will be a breath of fresh air as both Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini and Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud continue as the team’s two nominated points’ scoring crews.
Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin will run the third Stobart entered Ford Focus RS WRC07 as they look again to post points on the board after a successful run in Mexico which sees both competitors positioned 13th in their respective championships.
A five point deficit currently separates Galli from BP Ford Abu Dhabi works driver and former Stobart man Jari-Matti Latvala who occupies fourth in the drivers’ classification. Solberg lurks quietly in 11th as he’ll look to add to his 2008 points tally in Jordan next week.
Event HQ is based some 50 kilometres from the Jordanian capital of Amman in the Jordan Valley region which nestles next to the world’s second saltiest body of water, the Dead Sea. At 420 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea and the roads which surround its region are considered the lowest point on the surface of the earth on dry land; quite a contrast from Mexico and Argentina which saw crews soar up mountains 2000 metres above sea level.
With a total mileage of just 983 kilometres Jordan is set to become one of the more compact routes on the WRC circuit. The 359 kilometres that make up the 22 stages of the Jordan Rally are all manmade, fast, flat roads on a sandy gravel which is expected to heat up quite substantially as temperatures rise well above the 35 degree centigrade mark during this time of year.
Winding through desert, cactus farms and date palm farms, the Jordan River stage is the longest of the event at 41 kilometres in length and will run twice on day 3. Throughout the three days of competition the event will run through a series of historical and biblical sites including the King Hussein Bridge inside the Jordan-Palestine border crossing.
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team currently lie fourth in the FIA Manufacturers’ Championship just 11 points behind last year’s rivals Subaru. After four rounds to settle in, the team now looks to close the gap on the Japanese manufacturer in the hunt for a podium position by the close of season.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“Rally Jordan enters the World Rally Championship this year for the first time so it is going to be brand new for most of the drivers. We haven't been to the race or to this country so we are particularly curious to discover it. Part of the route is below sea level which is going to be quite strange! I hope not to have trouble here and be able to have a good race and maintain a good pace. We did not have the best events in the last two rallies but I am really starting to get used to the new Focus now and I can’t wait to see what it can do in Jordan.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“We will try again here in Jordan, it was quite unlucky what happened in Argentina but that is in the past and we have to focus on this rally now. I don’t know much about the rally only what I have seen on the internet from last year through some video clips on wrc.com. My engineer has done many years in the Middle Eastern Championship so I think it will be an advantage to have someone onboard who knows a lot about the surface already. We will be fighting hard again and hopefully a top-five result in this rally.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:  
“Jordan is shaping up to be quite a different event to what we have seen in recent times in the WRC. Both Scott and I have been training quite hard for this event because looking at the forecast, temperatures could climb as high as 40 degrees which will mean over 50 in the cockpit of the rally car. On a long stage like the big one on Sunday, fitness and concentration will play a huge part. It has been an unlucky start to the year for us but I have been happy with the speed and now we come to an event that is new to everybody; the last time this happened in the WRC was Rally Ireland where we finished seventh overall. This will also give Scott and I a chance to write a brand new set of notes from scratch for the first time this year and the aim will definitely be for a top-eight finish by the end of the rally.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“This is going to be a unique event which could benefit the Stobart team being new to the WRC calendar. Conditions will be demanding in the heat and the long stage on Sunday will be a true test of concentration and fitness. All three Stobart drivers have shown impressive speed on gravel this year and Gigi’s speed in Mexico was right up with the top guys until his retirement. A new rally brings with it new challenges and the main aim will be for each crew to finish with maximum experience of the new event with strong points for the team.”
Event Information
Date: 25-27 April 2008
Round: 5 of 16 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Dead Sea, Jordan
Stage surface: Gravel
Total stage distance: 359.26km
Number of stages: 22
Longest stage: 41.45km (stage 19 & 22)
Lowest descent on stage: 350 metres below sea level (stage 20)
Central Service Park: Dead Sea
Shakedown Stage: 2.3 kilometres long
Ceremonial start: Emaar South Park
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