Ford Fiesta S2000 crews face battle royal in Jordan
A fiercely fought third round
Six Ford Fiesta S2000s will contest Rally Jordan in what is expected to be a fiercely fought third round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
The Ford Fiesta S2000 swept the board at the previous event, claiming all three podium places at Rally Mexico thanks to Xevi Pons, Martin Prokop and Michal Kosciuszko.
However, with only two registered crews electing to pass on Rally Jordan, one of them Prokop, and ten S2000 crews in total entering the Middle Eastern event the competition will be as intense as the desert heat.
The rally will be based by the Dead Sea and is likely to see temperatures as high as 40 degrees centigrade, punishing for crews as they go flat out over the man-made gravel stages that wind through the Arabian sands.
In complete contrast from Rally Mexico, where the altitude rarely fell below 2000metres above sea level, Rally Jordan dips to earth’s lowest land point – around 400metres below sea level.
Amongst those vying for honours over the 21 stages totalling 339.48km of stage distance will be Xevi Pons. The former WRC manufacturer driver claimed an outstanding SWRC win in Mexico in his first event in the Ford Fiesta S2000 – suggesting he will be challenging at the head of the field over the remainder of the season.
Another driver who shone in Mexico was Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko. Also making his first competitive outing in the Ford Fiesta S2000 he took nine stage wins, and despite teething problems with his car that forced him to retire he came back out under SuperRally rules and went on to claim third in class. Kosciuszko will be confident that with more experience in the car he will be able to consistently maintain the searing pace he showed on his debut.
Returning to SWRC duty in Jordan will be Janne Tuohino. The Finn finished second in class on the opening round at Rally Sweden before electing to miss Mexico, but will be keen to continue his title challenge against a strong line-up of opposition. Having enjoyed a pre-rally test in Greece ahead of the event Tuohino will hope his preparation pays off with a strong finish in Jordan.
Another Finn will join the SWRC party at Rally Jordan, as Jari Ketomaa enters his first event in the Ford Fiesta S2000. The former PWRC-runner passed on the first two rounds of the season but is now raring to take on the rest of the SWRC field. Despite limited testing in his new drive Ketomaa, a three-time Finnish Rally Champion, and co-driver Mika Stenberg are determined not to be fazed by the competition and have set their sights on class victories.
Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa is another returning to the SWRC having passed on Rally Mexico. The youngster enjoyed his debut in the Ford Fiesta S2000 at Rally Sweden – despite the chilly conditions unfamiliar to him - and believes the gravel of Jordan will be more suited to his driving style. He showed his potential with a win on home tarmac using the Ford Fiesta 2000 in the first round of the Portuguese championship, and will be hoping for another strong showing next weekend.
With such a talented and determined field of crews the competition for the SWRC title is set to hot up significantly at Rally Jordan.
The final Ford Fiesta S2000 driver will also expect to excel in the dunes of Jordan, as Khalid Al Qassimi scored his best WRC result there in 2008 when driving for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Al Qassimi is not registered for the SWRC as he is focusing on the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), of which Rally Jordan is round three. He clinched a comfortable victory in the 2010 Kuwait International Rally, round two of the MERC, earlier this month in his Ford Fiesta S2000.
Xevi Pons said: “Of course we were very happy to start the season off with a win in Mexico. Now we have to work hard to get another good result in Jordan. It will be very tough because there are many good drivers in the competition. We must get some good points to make sure we can stay at the front of the fight for the title.”
Michal Kosciuszko said: “I cannot wait for this rally because we had such a good race in Mexico. I want to keep the same speed we showed there in Jordan and I expect the car to be very strong in this rally. I really think we can be fast enough to fight for the win if we have no problems. After the first day we will see where we are and what can be achieved, but I feel very confident.”
Janne Tuohino said: “We improved a lot in the setup of our Ford Fiesta S2000 after the test in Greece. We learnt a lot about the car and I’m very happy with it now, it’s perfect. I will start Rally Jordan aiming to win but there are five or six drivers who will be very strong. The stages are very tricky too. Bends are unpredictable as they often turn just after a crest, and there are no woods or bushes to tell you when the corner turns and how much. I have to rally hard but be very careful.”
Jari Ketomaa said: “I have been waiting for this moment all season so far. I’ve seen what the other guys have been doing in the first two rounds and I just want to get started. It’s difficult to predict where we’ll be compared to the others as they have already got some experience in the SWRC and the level of competition is very high. We’ve had very few kilometres in the Ford Fiesta S2000 but M-Sport has made a great car so it won’t be hard to find a good balance when we test it before the event. Then we hope to be up there fighting when it starts.”
Bernardo Sousa said: “This will be my first event in the Ford Fiesta S2000 on gravel so I’m keen to see what it is capable of. I really enjoyed driving it in Sweden and this will also be the first time I have been to Jordan so it’s all new. Winning is not my goal for this event as I know I need to have more experience, so my main goal is to finish and get as many points as possible. It’s a very good championship with so many tough drivers, so it will be a close fight.”
Khalid Al-Qassimi said: “Jordan Rally is one of my favourite events. I grew up rallying in the Middle East on similar desert terrain and in a hot climate, and I feel this is where I can push myself harder. I won the MERC round in Kuwait a couple of weeks ago in the Fiesta S2000, it is a great car to drive and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel and try and replicate that success in Jordan.”
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said: “With such a high-quality field it looks like Rally Jordan will be an exceptionally hard fought event for the crews in the S-WRC class. There are so many really talented Fiesta S2000 crews in there and any one of them could take the win, there is so little between them. It will also be great to see how Khalid does in the MERC, as he is leading the series and with support from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is committed to fighting for the title. It will be hard to improve on having three Fiesta S2000 cars on the podium as there was at the last round in Mexico, but with so many good drivers in the mix it could happen again. There is no doubt it will be an exciting battle throughout the weekend.”
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