Dead Sea, Jordan: Following tennis, golf and Formula One, it was only a matter of time before another major sport made a stop in the Middle East.
When Sebastien Loeb and company line-up for today's shakedown, Jordan will become the first Middle East country to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Apart from the history-making debut of Jordan as a World Rally Championship venue, there are more reasons than that which make this inaugural 2008 Jordan Rally a truly unique event. The UAE's ace driver Shaikh Khalid Al Qasimi, who won this rally last year, is part of the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team, joins current WRC leader Loeb and the rest of the pack as they negotiate 22 spectacular stages taking them to some of the most historical sites here.
The rally itself is being held in and around the Dead Sea, which at over 420 metres below sea level and is the lowest point on the surface of the earth.
This rally gains another unique feature as it is the only rally to have almost all stages at or below sea level while the over 350 kms of special stages in a route of nearly a thousand kms will take the drivers from the lowest point on earth to places of biblical interest like the baptism site of Jesus Christ, the place where Moses looked over the Promised Land (Mount Nebo) and a twisty 41.45km Jordan River stage which runs through 'no man's land' on the Jordan-Palestine border.
"We are looking forward to hosting one of the most unique rallies that the world has ever seen," said Prince Faisal Al Hussain, Chairman of Jordan Autosport in his welcome message.
"We have completely revamped our event which is now centralised in the historic Dead Sea area."
"We guarantee a rally experience with a difference as we bid to become established as one of the world's great sporting events," said Prince Faisal, the driving force behind the WRC coming to the region.
While Citroen's Loeb bids to extend his 5-point lead over BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team's Mikko Hirvonen from Finland, the Frenchman will also be eyeing his 40th WRC win in this latest WRC venue.
The four-time WRC drivers' champion said, "Our objective will be to win with a view to increasing our lead in the Drivers' championship and enabling Citroen to stay in the fight for top spot in the Manufacturers' standings. If Daniel (Elena) and I can pull that off, it will be our 40th WRC win.
That's not something I'm particularly obsessed about, but it would make a nice, round figure!"
While Citroen's Loeb bids to extend his 5-point lead over BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team's Mikko Hirvonen from Finland, the Frenchman will also be eyeing his 40th WRC win in this latest WRC venue...