Competitors from around the region are arriving at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba to make their final preparations for Jordan’s introduction to FIA cross-country rallying at this weekend’s inaugural Jordan Baja.
Twenty-two cars and five motorcycles will tackle 383.80 competitive kilometres in a route of 725.52km on this event being hosted through some of the most beautiful desert terrain on the planet.
Wadi Rum is a giant valley cut into sandstone and granite rock 60km to the north of Aqaba. It is also known as the Valley of the Moon or the Roman Valley, is the largest wadi in the Hashemite Kingdom and the home of the Zalabia Bedouin.
Stand out areas of individual beauty include the ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ rock formation, Jordan’s second highest peak Jebal Rum (1,734 metres), Nabatean temples and ancient petroglyths etched into cave walls and dating back to Thamudic times (8th Century BC).
The area has an enviable history as a favoured location for Hollywood blockbuster movies and has featured in a string of successful films, including David Lean’s legendary 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia and as the surface of the planet Mars in the 2000 film Red Planet.
Other films such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Frankincense Trail, Prometheus and Ridley Scott’s 2015 film The Martian were all filmed at the UNESCO World Heritage site that will play host to Jordan Motorsport’s candidate event for a potential future slot in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies.
As American actor Matt Damon once commented: « I was in awe of that place. It was really, really special. One of the most spectacular and beautiful places I have ever seen and like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else on Earth. »
Most recently, the area has been used for filming the latest Star Wars film Rogue One and will play host to filming of Aladdin in 2019.
While officials at Jordan Motorsport make final checks and any necessary modifications to the two desert selective sections of 122.00km and 67.90km that will test man and machine to the limit on Friday and Saturday, competitors prepare their racing equipment before technical scrutineering and administration checks take place at the Aqaba Service Park on Wednesday.
Temperatures have been up in the high thirties Centigrade in recent days and tyre wear on abrasive rocky surfaces, engine overheating and driver and navigator fatigue are all factors that teams will need to take into account.
Competitive action gets underway with a timed super special of four kilometres in Aqaba City from 16.37hrs on Thursday afternoon. The result of this short stage takes on extra significance in cross-country rallying, as the top 10 drivers will be able to choose their starting positions for the first of the longer desert sections on Friday.