A bullish Matthew Wilson has declared himself confident about his prospects of securing a good result on this weekend's gruelling Rally Jordan, describing it as 'a rally of endurance' and one of his 'strongest' events on the annual World Rally Championship calendar.
Wilson has indeed claimed fifth place in both of the two previous editions of Rally Jordan that he has entered, in 2008 and 2010 – just one position shy of his best-ever finish in the WRC. Having run as high as fourth in Portugal and Mexico lately, the 24-year-old is now eyeing a third successive Jordanian top five – and he hopes the intensive training he and co-driver Scott Martin have put in recently will pay dividends on the long, hot desert stages.
“Jordan is probably one of my strongest events in the WRC,” asserted the young Cumbrian ace. “I've always done well there in the past, so hopefully this year will be no different. It's definitely one of the most challenging rounds on the calendar – some parts of the rally can be very technical, and the roads are very twisty so it can be difficult to find a good rhythm.
“One of the other difficulties in Jordan is the hot weather – the first year we were there, the temperatures inside the car were topping 50 degrees, so it was difficult to try and maintain a high level of concentration. It's definitely a rally of endurance, and fitness levels are an important factor, so hopefully this should work in our favour as Scott and I have been working hard on our fitness recently.”
Wilson's M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team team-mates Mads Østberg and Henning Solberg are similarly buoyed up for the event – only the fourth WRC outing of 2011. The former will be embarking upon Rally Jordan for the first time, and as he bids to swiftly battle back from a distinctly troubled weekend in Portugal last month, the 23-year-old is optimistic that he will be able to rapidly adapt to the demanding conditions and the unique desert and cactus-characterised Middle Eastern landscape.
“To be honest, I have no idea what to expect on this event,” confessed the Rally Sweden star. “Jordan is a new rally for me, and with no test beforehand, it is going to be difficult. It'll be similar to Mexico in the sense that everything is new, so we'll have to work hard to make sure we have a good recce.
“I'll just be wanting to take one stage at a time and to ensure we finish each one – we will need to get as much experience of the roads as possible. I've not been feeling very well this week – I've had a bit of a fever since I've come back from Portugal – but I've managed to rest over the last few days, so I should be fighting-fit!”
Compatriot and M-Sport Stobart stalwart Solberg, finally, will celebrate a milestone this weekend, with his 100th WRC appearance. The Norwegian has finished as high as fourth in Jordan in the past, and hopes his experience of the Dead Sea-based event's sandy, rock-strewn Arabian roads will enable him to celebrate his landmark in style.
“We will try for a big result,” the 38-year-old confirmed. “It was quite unlucky what happened in Portugal, but that is in the past and we have to focus on this rally now. We will be fighting hard like we always do, and hopefully a top five result on this event is realistic. I really want to have a rally with no problems – and I think this is what we deserve after the last two difficult events!
“I'm very happy to celebrate my 100th WRC event in Jordan with the Stobart team – I've had some fantastic moments over the years, and I would like to thank M-Sport for their support over the past few years. Maybe I can also celebrate my 100th event with a strong result at Jordan Rally. I will try my best to make this happen...”