Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

El Gouna 2018 roller coaster

Lots of wild action in the desert, a podium surprise and Rahala winning as usual, reports Mohamed Abdel-Razek

 

Rahala buggy (photo: Trackarazzi Noise)

Right before the holy month of Ramadan, El Gouna rally ignited the Egyptian Eastern Desert from 10 to 12 May. The rally was late this year because El Gouna was busy with events, according to Ahmed Al-Sirgani, the rally founder and organiser.

Many enhancements were added to the rally this year. For the first time ever, the rally introduced the 4x4 challenge, which is a terrain obstacle track that is open to all 4x4 car drivers to enter and test their off-roading skills with safely controlled speed. Thirty-two 4x4 cars participated in the challenge, which was introduced in the Sahl Hasheesh rally last year. Also, 13 professional rally teams scattered in different categories, T1 modified cars, T2 stock cars and T3 lightweight cars were there. It was expected that motor bikes would be part of this year’s rally.

The events started on Thursday when all the teams were technically and mechanically checked by Hossameddin Mustafa, then joined a big parade through El Gouna ending at the Marina where they were introduced to the fans. The first day started with the 4x4 challenge kicking off the action early in the morning before Friday noon prayers. Activities stopped for the prayers then the 4x4 challenge continued before it was time for the real deal, stage one of the rally, the prologue. About 3km in a closed track, the 13 cars had to go around the track for five action-packed laps.

This year Sherif Abdel-Azim, first pilot of the Hammerhead team, participated for the first time with his new Polaris RZR 1000 in the T3 category. Abdel-Azim’s participation and driving on the track were anticipated by all the rally community, which put some pressure on the team. Unluckily Abdel-Azim rolled his buggy over on its side during the stage but was able along with his co-pilot to get back on track safely and finish the stage. There were no surprises in this stage, only strategic decisions from some teams to save their weapons for the big day of stage two.


Overall results

The two buggies Rahala driven by Hani Omar and co-piloted by Hani Madbouli came first, followed by the Desert Warrior of Hisham Al-Ghamri’s Sitra Racing, and third the constant Amino brothers, Omar and Hisham Amin. There were many indications that the competition would be very strong on the second day. Checkpoint, driven by Nadim Fiani and co-piloted by Ragi Ramadan, finished in sixth place for the first time in their history of participating in the rally. Rami Abbas made a strong comeback, finishing fourth. Ahmed Shouman and his co-pilot Ihab Al-Husseini took it easy to finish in eighth position.

In the second day, stage two, “it was one of the longest stages I ever drove in the Eastern Desert”, said Omar Amin. Stage two is the open desert stage that exceeds 200km in distance. The drama started even before the start. Checkpoint had their co-pilot injured and had to replace him but only after all the teams agreed. So it was Rana Al-Harti’s destiny to save the day, or maybe not exactly. Fiani had to drive slowly as Al-Harti wasn’t comfortable in her seating position nor feeding him with information from the road book. The biggest drama of them all was when the Toyota Land Cruiser of Fox Tribe, driven by Bassem Al-Biadi, rolled over in the desert several times, forcing him and his co-pilot to be sent to hospital. Al-Biadi had to undergo surgery on his hand but is now fine.

“The first 50 per cent of the route was very harsh terrain, bumpy, tiring for the car, the pilot and co-pilot,” said Omar Amin. Sherif Abdel-Azim fell ill and didn’t finish the stage. His biggest rival Karim Al-Zanati suffered a puncture with his T3 buggy and had to end his rally for safety reasons because he only had one spare tyre which he already used. Al-Ghami had a problem with his Desert Warrior and had to end his rally.

 


Overall podium

There were two big surprises in stage two. The first was the exceptional performance by the Gazelle team. Yara Shalabi and her co-pilot Nouran Yehia both performed in harmony, finishing second. “It was my first participation with this car, and I started preparing it in November last year,” Shalabi said, adding that she had an electric problem in stage one that caused the car to be down-powered and overheat at some points, which kept her in seventh position. In past rallies the chemistry didn’t appear to be clicking between Shalabi and her co-pilot. The latter appeared to be inexperienced and incapable in several situations in her previous participations, but the good thing is that they both decided to stick together and get things working the right way. “In stage two we stopped to help Fox tribe after the accident and then got back on track passing all the cars ahead of us,” Shalabi said. She believes that her team did a great job and there was no room for a better performance since Rahala’s buggy was overqualified and totally out of the competition. “Yehia was very confident this time which helped me to push hard and all the hard work and training with her for sure paid off,” added Shalabi.

The second big surprise was the Jibal Rally team, the fresh rally school student graduates who made it to the top of the chart with nearly zero experience. Khaled Azmi the pilot and Ahmed Allami his co-pilot managed to finish fifth in stage two against all odds.

“It was a very nice track in stage two, very tricky navigation as well,” said Madbouli from Rahala. On the left side of the cockpit, Hani Omar, who finished the track nearly an hour faster than the nearest chaser, said the track was fast and good for his buggy despite him having some problems with the temperature gauge.


Additional reporting by Karim Ali from the Rahala team in El Gouna

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