The World Rally Championship's current 'form man' Sébastien Ogier has taken a narrow advantage into the afternoon of the opening day of the 2011 Rally Jordan this weekend, but the Citroën Total World Rally Team star is being pursued hard by fellow DS3 WRC competitors Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb as well as Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rival Jari-Matti Latvala.
With the first six stages scheduled for Thursday having been cancelled due to a delay in transporting vital service park equipment to the event's Dead Sea base, the rally began in earnest with SS7 today, and running fourth-on-the-road, Rally Portugal winner Ogier took full advantage of the three drivers ahead of him sweeping away the loose gravel to establish a 7.2-second lead over former World Rally Champion Solberg in second, with WRC 'recordman' Loeb a mere two tenths further back again in third.
“Now everybody is pushing from the start because of the delayed start of the rally,” Ogier told the official WRC website, “so that's making things interesting. It's also been an extra challenge to work with the pace notes, because we had to do the recce in hire cars rather than the ones we usually use. We will try to make a difference this afternoon, but it will not be easy.”
columnist Latvala spearheads the Ford challenge at just under ten seconds behind Ogier following a consistent run through the morning's three stages – despite missing a crest and swiping a rock on SS8 – but team-mate and compatriot Mikko Hirvonen paid a heavy price for being first in the running order, and is now almost a minute shy of the leader and not far in front of the best-placed M-Sport Stobart entry of Mads Østberg, the Norwegian angry with himself for having been too conservative through SS7.
Østberg's own team-mate Matthew Wilson runs seventh, half-a-minute further back – like Latvala, hitting a rock on the second stage but luckily getting away with it – but Henning Solberg in the third M-Sport Fiesta was less fortunate, suffering engine damage following a similar incident of his own on the Jordan River stage and slipping well down the order on his 100th WRC appearance.
The early top ten is completed by an inconsistent Kimi Raikkonen in his ICE 1 Racing Citroën DS3 WRC – the former F1 World Champion not enjoying the loose gravel – with runaway SWRC pace-setter Nasser Al-Attiyah an impressive ninth overall in his Fiesta S2000, just over ten seconds ahead of the Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC of Khalid Al Qassimi.
The Qatari is pursued – albeit at rather a distance – in SWRC by an intercom-troubled Bernardo Sousa, after Eyvind Brynildsen's bid for glory was ended when the Norwegian struck a rock on SS8, terminally damaging the suspension on his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Rally Jordan: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 46mins 49.3secs
2. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 07.2secs
3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 07.4secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 09.8secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 51.5secs
6. Mads Ostberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 55.1secs
7. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 26.2secs
8. Kimi Raikkonen
ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +01mins 30.8secs
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Barwa Rally Team Fiesta S2000 +02mins 07.9secs
10. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 19.8secs
11. Federico Villagra
Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 29.9secs
12. Bernardo Sousa
Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 +03mins 16.8secs
13. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 46.0secs
17. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 33.2secs
18. Peter Van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +05mins 40.2secs
SWRC standings after Stage 9 (Top 3):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Barwa Rally Team Fiesta S2000 48mins 57.2secs
2. Bernardo Sousa
Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 +01mins 08.9secs
3. Karl Kruuda
ME3 Rally Team Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 51.7secs
all times unofficial