Joan Barreda breaking away... Schlesser take the lead


It was another hot day today, and the high temperatures have been the overriding characteristic of the four stages of the Pharaons rally disputed thus far. The racing starts early in the morning for this exact reason, with the sun just peeking out over the tops of the dunes and the fresh night air still lingering over the golden sands.

The fourth day of competition turned out to be slightly more difficult than yesterday, and perhaps a little less trying than what awaits the “survivors” tomorrow. As far as the bikes are concerned, everything can be summed up with a single name: Joan Barreda. He has swept the competition aside with such ease that the KTM riders can only look at his results with extreme envy. Everyone in the paddock now sees the Husqvarna as a serious threat to the Austrian manufacturer in the next Dakar.

After Barreda won the stage, this third of the four disputed thus far, there was something quite familiar about his comments: having started first, he said, “There were no problems with the navigation.” So no mistakes like he made during stage two, and neither Jakub Przygonski, second, nor Paulo Goncalves, third were capable of keeping pace with the Catalan gazelle, flashing his way across the scalding Egyptian desert. With Barreda now dominating almost every day, Goncalves and Przygonski are left to fight for second place.

Jordi Viladoms, fourth across the line, wasn’t able to push the limit during the 214 and 248 km long special stages, as he still has pain in his ribs from yesterday’s crash.

Pal Anders Ullevalseter suffered a different type of misfortune when his gearbox gave out just 40 km into the first stage, forcing him abandon his KTM in the desert, ready to be transported back by the balais.

For his part, Franco Picco didn’t celebrate his birthday in the best of ways today: he crashed heavily, momentarily losing consciousness. “I turned around to keep an eye on my ‘flock’, and didn’t realize I was cresting a dune,” he explained through the bruises on his face. The Italian rider has now been transported to the hospital in Cairo for the necessary follow up checks. Finishing eighth was Diocleziano Toia (Beta Dirt Racing), who is now seventh in the overall standings.

Auto: Experience has come through... for Schlesser

In the fourth stage for the cars, Jean-Louis Schlesser scored an authoritative win. He won both special stages in his classic style, a style which all the other drivers are frequently jealous of. By the end of the proceedings, the French driver had gained 25'03'' over Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, who therefore loses the overall lead by 10'07''! The final outcome is still very much undecided, but Schlesser’s lead will now allow him to keep control of his rival from the Emirates, despite playing the trailblazer role tomorrow. “An excellent day,” the victorious driver declared, “and also very difficult. I caught Khalifa in the dunes, at the 100th kilometer. Then I had to play the role of trailblazer, because the wind had blown away all the previous tracks in the sand. Many times I thought I had wondered off course, since the sand was perfectly untouched.”

Khalifa Al-Mutawei was slowed down when he got badly stuck in the sand and punctured a tyre.

Patrick Sireyjol was second 15 min behind Schlesser and in front of Régis Delahaye, who got many troubles today: «We got lost, stucked in the sand, and bumped against a Buggy on a dune»

For the Dakar Challenge Costel Casuneau – Maurilio Zani (Mitsubishi) are the actual leader of the classification, waiting to mantain the position until the and and win the entry at 2013 Dakar.

Tomorrow the fifth stage will bring back to Tibnyia. 405 km of special stage in program.