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Jordan - day 1: Sordo hangs onto P1... just.

25 April 2008

Citroen's Daniel Sordo leads the inaugural WRC event in Jordan at the end of day one, fractionally ahead of his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb.

Sordo was on it from the off, and was joint quickest with Petter Solberg in the opening test, the 13.03 kilometre-run through Suwayma.

The Spaniard then proceeded to set another quickest time in SS2, despite the fact the stages were very slippery, to establish an early 5.4 second lead, before increasing it to 15.1 seconds with his third stage win in a row in Mount Nebo 1.

Although he was 'only' joint fourth fastest in the final test of the morning, he still returned to the mid-day halt at the Dead Sea with a good advantage, 13.8 seconds up on his closest rival.

In the afternoon Dani hung onto the lead and while he was unable to repeat the kind of pace he had set on the opening loop - and was fourth fastest in SS5, SS7 and SS8 and second in SS6 - he still ended proceedings at the top of the leaderboard, albeit with his lead cut to just 1.1 seconds.

"We had been hoping that our position on the road would be favourable and it was," reflected the Spaniard.

"I am pleased with my start to the rally but we now have to try and defend our lead tomorrow, and that probably won't be easy."

Loeb was also content with his start to the event and like Sordo posted three quickest times, winning SS4, SS6 and SS7.

The Frenchman was more confident this afternoon, but conceded that the stages were like nothing he has competed on before.

"I had trouble settling into a good rhythm [this morning] which affected my driving and I had a couple of scares. We made a few small changes to the set-up of my car for the second loop and that felt much better," continued the four-time world champion.

"The gaps at the moment don't really signify much because I am sure it will be another tough day tomorrow."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala came in third and he is on course for the final spot on the podium, 7.4 seconds back in his Focus.

Although he slipped behind Seb on the repeat loop the Finn was happy to end the day in P3 and reckons he will now have a better position on the road on Saturday.

"I didn't expect it to be this close," said the 23-year-old. "My speed is good and I have a great start position tomorrow so I'll see how things go in the morning, before deciding whether to push in the afternoon or steady my pace.

"My confidence improved this afternoon but I'm still working my tyres too hard. I tried to brake softly and be more precise in my driving but I have more to do."

Mikko Hirvonen was next up in fourth in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT entry and like Jari he is still very much in contention, 4.9 seconds off his team-mate and 13.4 seconds off the lead.

"Everything went to plan this afternoon," stated Mikko, who ended the day on a high, with the best time in the last stage. "I didn't push too hard because there were many loose rocks in the road and I didn't want to hit one and damage the tyres.

"I attacked on the last test to ensure the gap wasn't too large tonight and I'm happy with how it went."

Further down the order Chris Atkinson rounds out the top five, albeit nearly a minute further back in his Impreza. He had a few 'moments', including a spin and a minor off, but luckily neither incident cost him that much time.

"Fifth overall is good - it's in line with our target for this event, and I think we have set a realistic pace this weekend," said the Aussie.

"We've not been taking any risks as the grip today has just been so tricky it would have been easy to make a mistake and throw it off. We have made some changes to the car today which made steps in the right direction, but there is still more to come for tomorrow."

After Atkinson, Urmo Aava put in an impressive drive in his privately entered PH Sport-run C4 WRC and is sixth, 50 seconds off Atkinson and a similar amount up on Matthew Wilson.

Wilson ended the day as the lead Stobart Ford man, with Henning Solberg one spot further down in eighth, after a slow start, while Gigi Galli finished proceedings classified in 19th.

"Today has been a really good start to the rally and I'm starting to feel more comfortable on these tricky stages. Apart from having a couple of minor half spins which dropped us some time, it's all went well today and I'm pleased with our performance," said the Brit.

Of the rest Federico Villagra and Khalid Al-Qassimi completed the top ten, with Patrik Sandell eleventh in his Renault Clio S1600. Sandell incidentally heads the JWRC category, 54.8 seconds up on Jaan Molder, who is 'best of the rest' in the Junior class and twelfth overall.

In terms of retirements a number of drivers' had problems today, with Suzuki WRT duo, Per-Gunnar Andersson and Toni Gardemeister early casualties.

P-G went out in SS1, when he went off the road and was unable to rejoin in time, while Gardemeister stopped with engine problems after SS2.

"I am upset for the team because I wanted to get a result for them on this rally," said Toni. "I came here to drive well and to compete with the other cars on even ground. I do believe we could have made a result."

Petter Solberg was the next big scalp, when he hit a rock in SS6 and broke his front suspension, retiring from fifth. Galli also went out in that same test, while in sixth. He slid into a stone bank and damaged the rear differential cooler and exhaust, and the differential seized in the high temperatures. Both will re-start tomorrow under the SupeRally format, as will Andersson.

Conrad Rautenbach also added his name to the retirees list, despite completing all the stages. The Zimbabwean suffered clutch problems after SS8 and was unable to make it back to service. He will re-start on Saturday too.

The action now resumes at 08.00 hours local time, before SS9, the 14.13 kilometre-run through Turkl starts at 08.53. Day two follows a similar format, with drivers again facing two identical loops of four stages, the bulk of which are north-east of the Dead Sea service park and close to the capital city of Amman. In total just under 110 competitive kilometres are on the bill.


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