The WRC heads to the Middle east this weekend for round 4 of the 2011 World Rally Championships.
3 Rallies, 3 winners. You have to go back a few years to find the last time we had 3 different winners on the first 3 rallies, back to 2007 in fact with Loeb, Gronholm and Hirvonen. And what a start we’ve had to this years WRC season. Mostly down to the new look, new generation of this years WRC. And we take all that to round 4 in Jordan. Thats assuming the boat transporting all the equipment arrives in time. This will be the 3rd time Rally Jordan has been on the calendar, and it has been a unique event, with all sorts of dramas in the past.
It was first on the calendar back in 2008, where Fords Mikko Hirvonen won the event, and Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb had a bizarre accident with Conrad Rautenbach on a road section when they crashed into each other head on. It missed the 2009 calendar, but made a return last year in 2010, And that created drama that we hadn’t seen for a long time in the WRC.
The highly controversial team tactics of Jordan 2010 . A change of road position was in order from Citroen, so as to give Latvala a more road sweeping effect. But a mistake from Citroen in a delay of split times to Ogier, meant Latvala was 3rd & Ogier 2nd on road for day3. Sunday morning Ogier was late out of service giving him a time penalty, and most importantly swapping the road position around. Ford then reacted, checked Hirvonen in early to slot him between the two. Citroen then counteracted with the drastic solution of making sure that Loeb was no longer first on the road – which consisted of sacrificing a poor angry Ogier by going too early into the stage, putting him first on the road. Which after all the penalties ended up 8th overall. Giving the win to Loeb.
What can we expect from this year. Well, if the first 3 rounds are anything to go by, it will be a battle down to the wire between the Citroen’s and the Ford’s. Both Hirvonen and Loeb have won here, but be sure the rest of the pack will be right on their back bumper. And providing we don’t see too many reliability issues, it will be a very exciting rally. Ford have spent some time testing in Spain with the new, stronger michelin tyre. But with Hirvonen first on the road, and as we have seen in the past, that will be an important factor. Latvala has always been quick here, but can he keep the Sebs from snapping at his heels? Loeb won here last year, but is 2nd on the road. Favorite to win here must be his younger team mate Ogier, being 4th on the road will give him a big hand. Petter Solberg has been one of the fastest in terms of stage times this year, but can he keep that bad luck of punctures and reliability away from him this weekend?
The stages. Rally Jordan has some of the hardest stages. Not just because there technical, and fast. But because they are in the middle of the desert. There are no tree lines, or buildings to help judge where the road is going or where the braking points are, even more tricky when faced with the many blind crests. As Mikko Hirvonen said on WRC.com, “On every other rally during the season there is a landmark behind the crests that can be used as a guide to position the car – such as a large rock, a telegraph pole or a tree. In Jordan they’re absent and all that can be seen is blue sky. A driver can’t see which way the road goes over the crest and it makes the accuracy of pace notes crucial. The gravel roads are a mix of fast and twisty sections, which follow the mountains, but they’re incredibly hard. When the roads are clean it’s like driving on asphalt, and you can see black rubber marks before hazards where drivers have braked.”
Weather. Anther challenge for the drivers will be the high temperatures out in the desert. Which could also put both the cars to the test as well as the drivers. As we saw back in Mexico, some of the cars suffered problems with over heating electrics. And with no chance of rain it will be sweaty work for the drivers. Who will win is anyones guess. Any one of the top five could take it this weekend, which could have a major impact on the Drivers championship which Hirvonen still leads, with Loeb 2nd on the same amount of points. This making the final ‘Power stage’ bouns points all the more important.
Rally Jordan will be running from Thrusday 14th to Saturday 16th.