By Amjad Baker
Twenty-three racing cars set off Thursday morning from King Abdullah Garden, Amman speeding to the finish line of the two-day Jordan's International Rally.
Middle East champion Mohammad Ben Sulayem and his Dutch co-driver, Ronan Morgan were the first to start.
But Ben Sulayem had an unlucky start as he failed to keep his leading position in the first special stage (SS1) and finished sixth.
Unlucky for another reason, Kuwaiti Mohammad Al-Sarraf dropped out of the race due to mechanical problems, to be joined later by Jordan's Ayat Abdul Rahman who had to leave the race at Abu Nseir suburb north of Amman, due to a mechanical failure.
However, at SS2 in Tal Al-Rumman, UAE's Ben Sulayem recovered his spectacular performance, and recorded the fastest time in this stage.
The Emirati champion finished the stage by 8 seconds a head of the lead driver Michael Saleh managed to maintain first position ahead of Australia's Ron Cremen who moved to third, replacing Qatar's Nizar Shanfari who finished in fourth position.
Jordan's only hope Marouf Abu Samrah finished the SS2 fifth.
One of the two Cypriot cars crashed in the second stage when Daniel Leny's Subaru car rolled forcing him to retire.
At the SS2, two other teams retired due to mechanical problems leaving them on the show-side, and only 18 speeders remained to compete in the SS3 (Special-Stage-three-Dead Sea).
Jordan's rally is a very competitive and special one, compared to other similar events in the Middle East, according to Bader Rashid, the rally's chief media officer said.
Rashid said the race contains a variety of challenges where the drivers travel through desert for 254.88 km, ride up hills and even down to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea driving for 431.42 km.
"It is exciting and challenging. Heroes can only meet such challenges", said the spokesman - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)