For the second year in a row, the Pharaons Rally is not on the calendar of the world’s governing body of motor sport. Does that mean the end of the historic event?
The Pharaons Rally has been part of the Federation Internationale De l’Automobile (FIA) Cross Country Rally World Cup since 1982. The second most difficult after the mighty Dakar, the Pharaons Rally’s reputation is so good that winning the championship and celebrating in front of the majestic Pyramids became a dream for most rally champions. But the desert has been quiet for some time now, since 2015 when the last Pharaons Rally took place in the Western Desert. Now there is a big chance that the world’s most prestigious rally teams will not be hitting the Egyptian desert for the next several years. The FIA has a rule that if any cross country rally event is cancelled for two years in a row -- like what has happened -- the rally will not be added again to the FIA international calendar.
According to Mahmoud Noureddin, Pharaons Rally organiser, in 2016 the rally was cancelled by the FIA, not the Egyptian organisers, “so it won’t count and the Egyptian side won’t be blamed.
“In 2016 we had all the security approvals from the military and we told the FIA we were ready to operate,” said Noureddin. Everyone in the rally community in Egypt believed Noureddin and his co-organisers, however, guesses flew everywhere when it was rumoured the organisers were hiding information and trying not to hurt the rally’s reputation.
So the rally community in Egypt, including teams and fans, decided to wait until 2017 to get punched right in the heart after not finding the Pharaons Rally on the FIA calendar. The questions started raining down once again on the Pharaons Rally organisers. Why now? Why is the FIA saying the security situation is not stable even though the Pharaons Rally was held in 2011 and 2012, at the time of the revolution? “The FIA decided not to add the Pharaons Rally to the calendar this year seeing that the country is not ready,” Noureddin said. Noureddin added that while the rally hosts teams from 25 countries around the world, most of them could not get travel insurance from their countries.
He said that practically speaking the rally could not be held while the Western Desert and Sinai are still closed off by the military because the international rally has to cover around 2,200 km of land, impossible at the moment.
The Pharaons Rally is supervised by the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt which is under the authority of the Ministry of Tourism. Noureddin said it: The Pharaons Rally is relying on tourism in Egypt and if tourism is harmed, like these days, the Pharaons Rally is directly affected.
The rally is the only official FIA motorsport activity in Egypt. The rest can be categorised under the amateur umbrella.
So are we to give away the Pharaons Rally forever? We can easily find excuses and blame either the FIA or the Pharaons Rally organisers. What is obvious is that the situation is foggy for the fans as well as the rally teams in Egypt and abroad who unfortunately have to wait for a miracle to happen.