Pharaons Rally: sport and friendship

30/09/2012

The atmosphere at the luxurious Hôtel Mövenpick, in Cairo, during the second day of technical checks was friendly and familiar. The guests weren’t surprised by the afternoon heat and happily took refuge in the pools and gardens of the hotel, while the Pharaons Rally participants took advantage of the magnificent atmosphere to recharge their “batteries.”

The mood amongst the organizers was cooperative and pleasant in the meeting hall, temporarily transformed into an administrative control center for the occasion. Every language is spoken here, and sporting advice is freely exchanged alongside friendly conversation, as everyone prepares for tomorrow race start in front of the Pyramids of Giza. On hand for the event will be the Egyptian Prime Minster, along with numerous other ministers. The authorities have taken a high interest in the event as it represents a truly unique showcase into local tourism.

The Pharaons Rally in Egypt is a race notable for its difficult terrain, the sand, the dunes, the navigation and the spirit of competition. Camelia Liparoti, a female Quad rider and loyal Pharaons competitor, can’t hide her enthusiasm for the event: “It’s my favorite rally on the calendar. I’m participating for the fifth time, and I’m as passionate as ever. It’s also the last event before the Dakar, and the Pharaons contains everything we need to be prepared next January…” It’s a logic that is backed by the high number of participants.

Moto: the absence of David Frétigné The Yamaha of David Frétigné is stuck on the sidelines: the French rider is unable to compete in the Egyptian event. A crash on his bicycle and two broken ribs have robbed him of the satisfaction of racing in an event he has been planning for quite some time. Present, however, is Jordi Viladoms, currently second in the World Championship (led by Marc Coma, who has already clinched the title) on a KTM 450. There is also the entire Husqvarna Speedbrain Team, with Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves. Also on hand is the Orlen Team, represented by the trio of Jakub Przygonski, Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor. Pal Ullevalseter has returned to the Pharaons after several years away. He won the race in 2004,and is looking to repeat that success this season. Roughly sixty bikes will be present at the start, a group in which the Italians – including veteran Franco Picco – are the most numerous nationality.

Auto: A Al-Mutawei – Schlesser Matchup While the competition will be wide open amongst the bikes, the four wheeled race is likely to come down a battle between Qatari driver Al-Mutawei and Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser. The winner will take home sixty points, with just 9 points separating them in the FIA World Cup! That means that the championship fight is still very much up in the air.

Khalifa, in the Mini All4 Racing of Team X-Raid Rally, doesn’t seem nervous, but he openly recognizes Jean-Louis’ strength on this type of terrain. He warned: “Schlesser has won the last two editions of the race…” It’s a comment that belies the pressure on Schlesser, who has disregarded any predictions and plans to take things day by day.

The G-Force pairing of Boris Gadasin (winner of the Hungarian Baja and the Silk Way) and Vladimir Vasilyev could overturn all of the predictions. Let’s also not forget Hungarian driver Miroslav Zapletal, at the wheel of a strong BMW that should allow him to be a protagonist. Looking on patiently will be Japanese competitor Jun Mitsuhashi (navigated by Frenchman Alain Guehennec) in a Toyota (T2), who regularly features at the top of the timesheets.

34 cars and one truck will breed life into this weeklong adventure in the Egyptian desert, where every competitor will be trying to distinguish themself for the two important races next year: the Dakar and the Sonangol Africa Race.

Dakar Challenge This year the Dakar Challenge is reserved for cars, and includes all amateur competitors who have never raced in the Dakar previously, and who aren’t on the FIA priority list. The winner of this particular sub-category has the chance to realize his or her dream: standing up on the starting podium in Lima, on January 5th, 2013, with their 2013 Dakar entry offered by ASO.