By Shady Janzeir
Middle East rally veteran Mohammad Ben Sulayem clinched his eleventh victory at the Jordan International Rally Friday, with his long-time rival Michel Saleh trailing five minutes behind.
Only nine competitors out of the 23 who started were able to reach the finish line, of whom Omani Nizar Shanfari and his Cypriot co-driver came in third in overall standings, and first in Group N.
The only Jordanian team to cross the finish line of the race were the 1999 Jordan Champion Faris Bustami and Ra’ed Wakileh.
Although he has won the rally that many of times, Ben Sulayem found the stages difficult than usual for him.
“The stages were unusually tough, especially in the second day [leg two],” the champion told Albawaba.com. “it is a very long rally that needs good preparation. What really sets the score is a reliable well-prepared car with easily accessible spare parts.”
It also seemed that victories are never too many for the ambitious rally man. Responding to Albawaba.com’s question at a press conference after the rally on whether his victory has grown colorless after so many achievements, Ben Sulayem said “victory is always enjoyable no matter how many times you grab it, and this is the reason why I will never consider retirement.”
For his part, Saleh, who placed all the pressure he could to excel Ben Sulayem, blamed his Toyota Silica, which he said was not powerful enough to challenge his rival’s Ford Focus.
“I tried my best to clinch the title, but Mohammad’s [Ben Sulayem] car is much more powerful,” he told Albawaba.com. “Next time I will be here with a brand new car,” he promised.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II took part in the first stage of the second day as he drove the zero car, a Jordanian-made buggy, leading the way for the 14 competitors, who succeeded in reaching the second leg of the race.
The total distance of the rally was 686 kilometers, with 23 special stages totaling to 280 kilometers. The first ten stages were held Thursday on gravel roads north and northwest of the capital Amman, while the remaining stages were done Friday on mostly sandy desert tracks south and southeast of Amman – Alabawaba.com (Photos by Shady Janzeir)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)