AMMAN — Special stage action in the Jordan Rally, round three of the 2023 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), gets underway in the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley areas of the Kingdom on Friday morning, according to the Jordan Rally Media Service.

Competitors were flagged away from a spectacular ceremonial start adjacent to the Dead Sea in the grounds of the Dead Sea Marriott Resort and Spa on Thursday evening.

Twenty-three crews and competitors from six nations had completed their reconnaissance of the special stages on Wednesday afternoon and are relishing the two-day challenge ahead. Seventeen are eligible for the FIA event and a further six will only be able to score points for the National Championship.

Pre-event favourite and 15-time event winner Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah said: “Jordan is a special rally for me. It was where I came at the very start of my career and I have a good record on this rally. I enjoy the stages. They are very challenging and a pleasure to drive. We made a good test, a short one, but no issues with the car. We know these stages well and know that you have to be careful in some places.”

Abdullah Al Rawahi won the opening round of the MERC in Oman in his Škoda Fabia R5 before retiring from round two in Qatar with an engine failure. The Omani is hoping to push Attiyah all the way this weekend.

He said: “We have worked on the details of the set-up to adapt it to my driving style and it is going really well. We had the pace in Oman. That was something positive to take. We were in Jordan about three weeks’ back and won the national event. We were preparing for this rally.

“Me and Ata [Al Hmoud] worked really hard on the notes and the times on the stages were really good on the local rally. I think we are coming in really strong on this rally and will try to be close to Nasser. If we can challenge him, it will be really nice for us and the spectators.”

Before the ceremonial start, Attiyah was joined at the pre-event press conference by title rival Rawahi, MERC2 front-runners Meshari Al Thefiri, Roger Feghali, Shaker Jweihan, last year’s FIA MERC2 champion Issa Abu Jamous and veteran Ziad Miqdad, who will retire from the sport after this event. Miqdad has taken part in 31 Jordan rallies.

On Friday, three special stages will be used twice on day one before a short stage at the Dead Sea. The timed competition gets underway with a run through the 9.49km Yakrut stage (first car — 9:29am) that carves its way across winding off-road trails to the left of the main desert link road between Amman and the Dead Sea hotel area.

The mammoth Jordan River stage of 40.79km (first car — 10:42am) is next on the agenda close to the frontier with the West Bank and the surface has benefitted from a lack of rain in the last few weeks. The loop is completed by a run through the Baptism Site stage of 11.34km (first car – 11:45am).

The three specials are then repeated from 1:31pm, 2:44pm and 3:47pm, respectively, after a return to the Dead Sea for a lunchtime regroup and service. The day’s action concludes with a short 3.48km special stage close to the Dead Sea from 4:30pm.

The rally will then continue until Saturday’s finish.

Support for this year’s event comes from Zain Jordan, Hala and Bliss FM.

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