The 2021 Jordan Rally got underway on the shores of the Dead Sea on Thursday afternoon. Twelve cars and competitors from eight nations will now tackle 10 demanding gravel stages on Friday and Saturday in the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and Jordan River areas close to the lowest geographical point on earth.
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will be hoping his extend his eight-point lead in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in the absence of closest rivals, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Khalid Al-Suwaidi, who pushed him hard at the opening round in Qatar at the end of January.
On this occasion the 13-time winner of the Jordan Rally faces competition from former QMMF president Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya and Oman Rally Team driver Abdullah Al-Rawahi.
Hamed Al-Wahaibi had been relishing his return to the international arena after a nine-year absence, but the Omani suffered a shock crash while testing tyres on Thursday morning and was not able to make the ceremonial start after damaging his Škoda Fabia.
Al-Wahaibi said: “I lost a bit of concentration while testing tyres. I just ran a bit wide out of a corner and went into a small ditch. The car went end-over-end about five times. Ilka (Minor) and I are both okay. The car proved its strength. I was so happy to be here and back in rallying.
“We will be in Rally Lebanon, for sure. Thanks to the organisers for all their support. The welcome has been great, fans, competitors and my friend Nasser (Al-Attiyah) was so supportive. Now I wish my team-mate Abdullah Al-Rawahi all the best for the coming two days.”
Meshari Al-Thefiri has won the last three MERC2 championships in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and the Kuwaiti takes a nine-point advantage in the secondary ‘showroom’ category into the opening stages on Friday.
His two closest rivals, Rashid Al-Mohannadi and Zakariya Al-Ofi, have not made the trip to the Hashemite Kingdom but local drivers Shabi Shaban and Ihab Al-Shourafa and the Lebanese trio of Alex El-Feghali, Ahmed Khaled and Shadi El-Fakih will be hoping to push him all the way.
Lebanon’s defending champion Henry Kahy faces local driver Asem Aref in the MERC3 section for two-wheel drive cars and Saudi Arabia’s Saleh Al-Saif rounds off the starting line-up in a T4 Can-Am Maverick X3.
Support for the event comes from Zain Jordan, Guarantee Travel Group and Nestlé Waters Jordan.
Tomorrow crews tackle two loops of three special stages, starting with a run through the 9.8km of Syagha from 09.19hrs. The brand new challenge of Adasiyah (34.70km) follows at 09.58hrs and the loop is completed with a blast through the 11.34km of the Baptism Site special from 11.17hrs.
After a return to the Dead Sea Service Park for a mid-leg regroup and chance to refettle the cars, the loop of three speed tests are repeated at 12.58hrs, 13.37hrs and 14.56hrs, respectively.
2021 Jordan Rally – list of starters
- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Volkswagen Pole GTI
- Abdullah Al-Ruwahi (OMN)/Ata Al-Hmoud (JOR) Ford Fiesta
- Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT)/Nasser Al-Kuwari (QAT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
- Henry Kahy (LEB)/Carlos Hanna (LBN) Škoda Fabia 1.6
- Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Ford Fiesta
- Shadi Sheban (JOR)/Emad Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
- Ihab Al-Shourafa (JOR)/Yousef Juma (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
- Alex El-Feghali (LBN)/Georges Deaibess (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
- Asem Aref (JOR)/Ahmed Jankhot (JOR) Renault Clio
- Ahmad Khaled (LBN)/Musa Djiyerian (JOR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
- Shadi El-Fakih (LBN)/Samer Sfeir (LBN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
- Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Feisal Al-Suwayh (SAU) Can-Am Maverick X3
2021 FIA Middle East Rally Championship – standings after round 1:
- Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 40pts
- Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QAT) 32pts
- Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QAT) 27pts
- Nasser Khalifa Al-Atya (QAT) 23pts
- Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 19pts
- Saleh Al-Saif (SAU) 15pts
- Rashid Al-Mohannadi (QAT) 13pts
- Zakariya Al-Ofi (OMN) 11pts
- Ahmad Khaled (LBN) 9pts
- Zakariya Al-Amri (OMN) 7pts
2021 FIA Middle East MERC 2 Championship – standings after round 1:
- Meshari Al-Thefiri (KWT) 40pts
- Rashid Al-Mohannadi (QAT) 31pts
- Zakariya Al-Ofi (OMN) 28pts
- Ahmad Khaled (LBN) 23pts
- Zakariya Al-Amri (OMN) 18pts
- Shadi El-Fakih (LBN) 1pt
2021 FIA Middle East MERC 3 Championship – standings after round 1:
- Henry Kahy (LEB) 40pts