Barreda and Al-Mutawei start strong
Following the traditional start in front of the Giza Pyramids, with the Egyptian Minister of Tourism looking on, the competitors of the 2012 Pharaons Rally completed a transfer of 124 kilometers before starting their race adventure in earnest. The first special stage, 330 kilometers of mostly unknown terrain, was the first test awaiting the racers, containing a mix of difficult navigation, fast off-road areas, sand and the first dunes. It was more than enough to open the proceedings and familiarize everyone with the Egyptian terrain. Many of the competitors described it as a difficult day, with several of the front runners quickly bunching up and running together, keeping a close eye on one another. As a part of this “game,” Joan Barreda, who started 8 minutes after the trailblazer Ullevalseter, broke away from his rivals in the final part of the stage with an unstoppable sprint. “He was really on the gas,” confirmed Jordi Viladoms, “and we were surprised by the speed of his Husqvarna on the straights. Personally I navigated very well, and I’m happy with my day.” Viladoms, the winner of the Sardegna Rally Race, was third fastest on the opening day.
It turned out to be a one-two finish for Husqvarna, with Paulo Goncalves coming in 5 minutes behind his teammate. Jakub Przygonski, in fourth place, was the fastest from Team Orlen, who also saw Jacek Czacho and Marek Dabrowski in sixth and seventh places, respectively. Joining the top 10 was the quad of Polish rider Rafal Sonik, aboard a Yamaha Raptor. He was 27 seconds ahead of his compatriot and rival Lukasz Laskawiec. Camelia Liparoti, happy with her day, was fourth of the quads, behind Frenchman Sébastien Souday. Diocleziano Toia (Beta) and Paolo Bellini (Alfer), eleventh and twelfth respectively, were the top Italian finishers.
Schlesser suffers battery problems “I have to give a big thank you to Patrick (Sireyjol), who came to help me when I had battery problems. This already happened to me during the Baja of Aragon ; when I shift into reverse, the engine shuts off. It’s most certainly a short circuit.” Coming off of a dune in reverse, his buggy was stuck in place, completely dead. Sireyjol didn’t hesitate for a moment to grab his equipment and bring the Sonangol Buggy back to life, where it eventually finished the stage sixth.
The incident left the way clear for Khalifa Al-Mutawei (Mini All4 Racing X-Raid), who gave credit for the success to his co-pilot Andy Schulz, who navigated to perfection. “It’s been at least ten years since I’ve been to a Pharaons, but I immediately felt comfortable,” the German commented. A surprising second fastest was Régis Delahaye (Buggy MD Racing): “I drove relaxed. We are preforming tests ahead of the Dakar, and every day we try a small technical modification,” the driver navigated by Alex Winocq, normally by the side of Eric Vigoroux.
Patrick Sireyjol (Buggy SMG) went on to finish third after his day as a ‘good Samaritan.’ “It’s normal for us Frenchman to help one another,” he stated simply at the finish. Japanese driver Jun Mitsuhashi, navigated by Alain Guehennec, confirmed his competitiveness in the Toyota, finishing fourth ahead of the Mitsubishi of Romanian driver Costel Casuneano, navigated by Italian Maurilio Zani. Tomorrow’s second special stage will be a long loop around the oasis of Baharija. It will be a route with magnificent views, and which requires considerable energy to cover the 347 kilometer length.