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Final Countdown Begins To Jordan's Place in FIA Motorsport History
    2008-04-23 08:15:27     Xinhua

Jordan will create history this week by becoming the first Arab nation to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the modern era of international rallying.


The event has attracted the world's leading drivers, who will compete against the region's finest rallying talents for the first time over 22 special stages in the Dead Sea region of the Kingdom between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon.


A number of distinguished guests from the world of motor sport and several thousand spectators from all around the globe are expected to literally descend upon the lowest place on earth to witness the high-speed special stage action.


The star attractions are likely to be the French rallying superstar Sebastien Loeb - chasing a record-breaking 40th career WRC win - and his arch Finnish rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, who drive for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and will be making their first visits to Jordan. Hirvonen lies second in the Drivers' Championship behind Loeb and is confident that he can challenge the world champion in Jordan.


"I've never been here, but I've spoken to some drivers who have and seen photographs from our team, who visited the candidate rally last year," said the Finn. "The roads look smooth and it seems as though the organisers have done a good job in preparing them. They look fast and flowing, like Finland but without the jumps, so if that's the case they should be good for me."


While the world's media focuses on the battle between the WRC's leading drivers, the majority of the region's top rally drivers will be fighting for honours in the showroom or Group N category.


With the exception of the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi - winner of the official candidate event in Jordan last year who drives a factory Ford Focus - his former rivals have entered a number of privately-run Subarus and Mitsubishis.


Former Jordan Rally winner and regular PWRC runner Amjad Farrah leads an 11-strong home contingent in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX and is seeded at 33. Fellow Jordanians Faris Bustami, Ameer Najjar, Ala' Khalifeh, Faris Hijazi, Mazen Tantash, Ammar Hijazi, Issa Abu Jamous, Tamer Tabaa, Abir Batikhi and Ahmad Mihyar have ensured that the host nation is well supported on this flagship event for Middle East motorsport.


The UAE's Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi is a former regional Group N champion and is joined on the entry list by fellow Emirati Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, both have tackled the Jordan Rally many times in the past and are delighted to be able to support the event on its WRC debut.


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