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Sordo takes lead, Loeb in second spot
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 04 - 2008

Spaniard Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti held a mere 1.1 second overall lead in the 2008 Jordan Rally after the opening leg's eight timed special stages in punishing heat Friday.
Teammates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena pressured them toward the end on a day dominated by the unique challenge of driving over the challenging Jordanian terrain.
Ford teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen were third and fourth at the end of day one, but Petter Solberg and the factory Suzukis hit trouble. Sweden's Patrick Sandell led the JWRC category by 54.8 seconds in his nimble Renault Clio.
Sordo and Solberg set the joint fastest time in the opening Suwayma special stage, although Hirvonen was a mere 0.5 seconds adrift. Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson left the road in the first of the factory Suzuki SX4s and was forced to retire. He was soon joined by teammate Toni Gardemeister, as the Japanese team made a miserable start to the fifth round of the WRC.
Sordo was fastest again in the Mahes special and moved into the outright lead, with Solberg and Latvala his closest rivals. All drivers complained that the stage surfaces were treacherously slippery and no-one was prepared to push and take risks. “It was just so slippery on those early stages,” said Latvala. “The grip was unpredictable and the priority was not to make a mistake.”
Sordo was again the form driver in the Mount Nebo stage and extended his overall lead over Solberg to 15.1 seconds, although the top seven were closely bunched. Loeb set his first fastest time in the Mai'n special and moved up to third position, but several of the leaders survived small spins on the slippery surfaces, as Sordo arrived at the major service break with a 13.8 second lead over Latvala. Petter Solberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Chris Atkinson completed the top six.
Sandell headed JWRC championship leader Sébastien Ogier by 18.5 seconds in the JWRC category, with Estonian Jaan Molder in third place. Brake problems and overheating plagued several of the leading Juniors over the abrasive gravel stages.
JWRC championship leader Ogier collected time penalties for fixing a fuel pressure problem and then sustained a sixth-stage puncture, handing a comfortable overnight advantage in the Junior category to Sandell.
The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi led the Middle East contingent in his official Ford Focus RS in 10th position. The best of the rest was Sheikh Suhail Bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, who held 15th overall after seven timed special stages, with Jordan's Ala' Khalifeh in 20th. __


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