Road to Jordan begins in -25oC Swedish winter

Road to Jordan begins in -25oC Swedish winter
Road to Jordan begins in -25oC Swedish winter
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The lukewarm waters of the Dead Sea and the sun-kissed hills of the Jordan Valley will seem a million miles away this weekend when the road to the Jordan Rally begins in the freezing temperatures of Sweden’s opening round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship season, according to a statement from Jordan Rally organisers.

Temperatures as low as -25oC combined with drifting snow and icy roads will provide a once-in-a-season challenge to the world’s best drivers, who will be heading to Jordan from April 1-3 following round two which will take place in Mexico.

And spare a thought for 37 year-old Khaled Qassimi who hails from the United Arab Emirates and is more used to driving with air conditioning on than wearing heated driving boots!

“The first WRC rally of the year is always a really exciting time and I can’t wait to get started this weekend,” the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was quoted as saying in the statement. “These are exciting times for Abu Dhabi’s rally programme and I hope we can kick it all off with a strong performance in the snow and start as we mean to go on.”

The contrasting rallies of Sweden and Jordan typify the adventurous spirit of the WRC which is set to stage one of its most competitive seasons in recent history with Sebastien Loeb’s six-year reign as driving champion set to come under serious threat.

Loeb has been untouchable in his Citroen but last season he only secured his title by a single point from the Ford speed king Mikko Hirvonen, of Finland, who will be looking to take advantage of familiar driving conditions to gain an early advantage over the Frenchman.

Throw into the mix 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who has reverted to rallying for 2010, and this weekend will provide a tasty insight into what the Middle East’s army of rally fans can expect in a little over seven weeks.

It is a prospect that has certainly excited Hirvonen who said: “The difference between myself and the title winner was a single point last season which translates to tiny decisions on the stages but it is those small things that make the difference between winning and coming second. On occasions I wasn’t brave enough but when you are brave enough to take the chances, you can feel the difference.”

2008 Jordan winner and Hirvonen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala certainly believes this season will be the most open in the modern era of rallying and expects a flying start to the season.

“Sweden is one of my favourite rounds and one of the most spectacular in the championship,” he said.

Following Sweden, many of the teams will be sending their “European kits” onward to Jordan while relying on their long-haul set-ups for the Mexico leg next month.

Jordan is set to unveil an iconic rally with venues steeped in historical interest for the thousands of visitors expected to fly in. It will launch from the former Roman provincial city of Jerash on April 1 before three days of fierce competition through the Jordan Valley and around the Dead Sea areas.

The 2010 season will consist of 13 rounds, finishing at the season-ending with Rally GB, to be based out of Cardiff, Wales.

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