Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

They’re off

The Pharaons International Rally of Egypt began with 25 countries firing up their engines for the 32nd edition. Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Every year since 1982, Egypt has been attracting the world’s top rally drivers on its magical soil, testing their stamina, concentration and skills through five stages in the world's second longest cross country rally. This year, there will be a slight exception that will definitely spark greater challenges among the top drivers. Winning the Pharaons Rally this year will decide who will win the world championship. So, what all the drivers and riders have in common is the goal to be the mighty Pharaon of the Egyptian desert. 

Being part of the World Rally Championship, the Pharaons Rally reserves a regular place in the yearly Federation Internationale de'l Automobile (FIA) calendar, encouraging world champions to take part.

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This year, participants are from Belgium, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San-Marino, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US, Holland, Ukraine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and host country Egypt. All shipped their equipment and fierce-looking machines to Egypt for a wild five days in which they will be covering 2,375km from the Western Desert all the way to the finish line at the Giza Pyramids.   

Early on Tuesday 12 May at Alamein, motorbikes, cars, and trucks all lined up in that order, waiting for permission to get going. The signal was given to head south, to a camp in Baharia Oasis. "From this camp we will start different stages in order to have a greater variety of terrain," said Mahmoud Noureddin, Pharaons Rally organiser. These stages will include sand dunes, plateaus and descents as well as ascents. Noureddin added that they as organisers try to present different terrains and routes for the rally every year, to make sure the excitement never fades from the sports point of view as well as showing off the beauty of the Egyptian deserts to the large number of participating foreigners, from the touristic point of view. 

In this year's edition, there are three Egyptian teams participating in the cars category: one in quad, and one in motorcycle. Hesham Al-Ghamri (driver) and his co-pilot Sherif Al-Alem are competing with their Rally Raid UK Desert Warrior 1 in the cars category T1 Class T2. Tarek Al-Erian (driver) and his co-pilot Hani Madbouli are competing in the same cars category T1 class T3 with their Cotel-Rahhala Prototype Buggy.

In the quad category, Nader Al-Khayat is participating for the second year in a row with his Raptor 700 trying to prove his abilities. In the motorcycles 450 category, the Egyptian champion Khaled Kabo is competing on his Yamaha WR450F.

Unfortunately, two Egyptian teams were knocked out of stage one. Al-Erian and Madbouli faced unexpected engine failure serious enough to force them to get an early shower. In the one-man show category of motorcycles, Kabo had an accident, breaking his collar bone. He was air lifted to hospital in Cairo.

Two Egyptian teams are left. Al-Khayat appeared to be the closest to a podium finish if he overcomes his penalties, while Al-Ghamri and Al-Alem need to do something special to be able to get into the top 10 overall of the hard-fought T1 category.

The Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt is sponsoring Al-Khayat and Kabo, exempting them from paying the registration fees of the race which is around €2,200, in its efforts to support Egyptian athletes.             

Without doubt, Middle East champions Nasser Al-Attia from Qatar and Yazeed Al-Rajhi from Saudi Arabia remain the strong favourites to win the rally. In every edition they participated in, they showed almost maniacal challenges for the title.

"I prepared for the rally like any other I participate in. I hope I can do something special this time,” Al-Rajhi said.

Trying to defend his title of last year, Al-Rajhi gave a powerful performance from day one leading overall, ahead of Al-Attia in second place. "I am glad to participate in this race. I really had fun last year and this year I am looking for another win,'' said Al-Rajhi who admitted that Al-Attia is a strong competitor with much experience, but still confident that he will give him problems.

However Al-Rajhi believes that Al-Attia's Mini All4 Racer car is much stronger than his Hilux Overdrive, a fact that will give Al-Attia an advantage. "Regardless of the car’s advantages, I believe I am better than Al-Attia in technical abilities," added Al-Rajhi. Despite appearing only five times in the world championship, Al-Rajhi is proving great potential, as reflected in the score sheets. "I hope we don't get into lots of sand because my car doesn’t have much torque to deal with these kinds of situations.”        

"We invite all the media in the country to come and cover the finishing stage of the race and podium awards on Saturday at the Giza Pyramids. We all need to support the sport and tourism in Egypt," said Adel Abdel-Baki, president of the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt. 

The racers are due to reach the finish line on Saturday at the Giza Pyramids. Al-Ahram Weekly will provide full coverage.

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