Latvala stays in the lead
But Loeb closes in
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila maintained their lead of the Jordan Rally after a demanding morning’s competition alongside the country’s border with Palestine.
The Finns completed the opening loop of the second leg with a 4.7sec advantage in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car in this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Thirty-two of the original 33 starters restarted from the Dead Sea rally base, eight of whom are competing under SupeRally rules after retiring yesterday. They face two identical loops of three speed tests west of the capital city of Amman, covering 138.28km.
The day includes two passes over the marathon 41.45km Jordan River stage, one of the longest of the season, which tracks the river through traditional Bedouin communities along the high-security border between Jordan and Palestine.
Latvala began the day with a 30.2sec lead, but the 24-year-old knew he would do well to retain that. He was first in the start order and had to sweep slippery loose gravel from the road surface to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. He was fifth through both the opening 10.49km Suwayma and the 17.20km Kafrain before finishing fourth in the twisty Jordan River.
“Running first was difficult, but I expected that,” he said. “The first two stages were OK but I dropped more time in Jordan River than I thought. There were many rhythm changes and the stage is so long and featureless that it’s hard to remember where you are. There aren’t many landmarks and the road winds through scenery that is very similar. My pace notes were too ambitious in a couple of places and I slid wide into the gravel. The roads will be cleaner this afternoon, but there are so many smaller cars behind us that take different driving lines that the surface could be quite messy.”
Good Friday turned out to be far from that for team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. The Finns were almost 5km into the Suwayma stage when they retired from fifth place with broken suspension on their Focus RS World Rally Car after hitting a bank.
“I made a silly mistake and I can’t believe it,” admitted 29-year-old Hirvonen. “The stage was going well when I took too tight a line over a crest. The car hit a small gravel bank on the inside of a right bend and the impact threw it into the air and across the road. I was lucky not to roll but it landed on the left front wheel and the front left suspension broke. I so rarely make a mistake, I’m disappointed.”
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