JUAN CARLOS Salvatierra claimed his victory with his Speedbrain 450, but today was not about winning but about surviving. With temperatures way over 45 degrees the riders could only hope to stay concentrated on their bikes.
Stefano Turchi managed to finish on his KTM 690, together with his teammembers. ‘After the refueling we decided to ride together, it was so hot I could not concentrate anymore,’ Stefano says after he has recovered in the bivouac. ‘The sand was hot and so soft! For the bikers this was a tough day, we all struggled to reach the finish. At the CP I filled my helmet with water but after 5 minutes I was completely dry again.’
‘The route today was incredible, the roadbook is good!’ Even with the heat Stefano managed to enjoy the stage. ‘Wow! I did 140 km/h on my bike without pushing it. In the rocks I went to first gear, it was like trial with my rallybike but after that came some beautifull mountains, the plateaus and at the end the dunes. This day had everything, speed, technical sections and dunes, only the heat made it really difficult.’
The scourging hot desert proves a perfect terrain for racing, with long sandy tracks, deep canyons and long climbs. The stones in the canyons add to this and when the first cars arrive they simply bounce off the stones in the valley, racing in a straight line. The roaring engines echo between the rocks, a sharp sound where you can normally only hear the wind whistling.
Yazeed Al-Rahji very different racing
Yazeed Al-Rahji opened the stage today with the Overdrive HiLux and was strong fighting with Nasser Al-Attiyah and Vladimir Vasilyev. ‘With two punctures today we lost a bit of time, the stones can be razor sharp here,’ Yazeed says. ‘Before we came here I had some fears about the situation, there was a lot of talk. But here I am racing and it is very different, I am glad that we came to the Pharaons Rally!’
‘Do you remember the problems we had with the V-Belt in the Dakar?,’ Wouter Rosegaar asks, ‘well, today we lost 30 minutes changing our V-belt on the Mini!’ Wouter is the codriver of Erik van Loon and they are testing the car for the Dakar in South America. ‘Our mechanics are checking everything, they never had this problem before.’ Today the heat was too much for Erik van Loon, so they decided to take it slow. ‘Luckily Erik recovered and we decided to keep going and finish the stage,’ Wouter says. ‘Then we had the problem with the belt and a puncture. Imagine 45 degrees, wearing your helmet and running around the car to fix it.. for me it was also almost too much but we dealt with everything and kept going!’
Right behind the big teams is Miroslav Zapletal, who took a fifth place today with his Hummer H3. ‘We built it with a small team, we have only 7 guys working on the cars,’ Miroslav explains. ‘This year we are experimenting with a diesel engine and I am happy to be in the fifth place today.’ Zapletal appreciates the Egyptian terrain: ‘It is beautifull here and the roadbook is good. With the heat it’s tough, but that is no surprise in the time of the year. Today I had no technical problems, but I made a mistake in the dunes and we got stuck. Digging out a car in this heat is quite a challenge, I can tell you.’
Joining the Pharoans can be easy
Joining the Pharaons can be easy: the RAID category is a special class for standard 4×4 cars and follows the same roadbook as the race. ‘We start ahead or after the race, so sometimes we get up really early,’ says Amir Kirollos, who has been to the Pharaons several times as assistance for one of the Egyptian teams and is now enjoying the stages in his tough and trusted Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ79. ‘It is a very versatile vehicle and I can trust it in the desert. With the RAID we go into the desert just like the race, but we take it much easier.’ Without the chrono there is time to find the easiest line up a hill or to enjoy the view on a mountain pass, but don’t underestimate the adventure!
After today’s stage the teams arrived in El Dahkla, a beautifull Oasis rising out of the desert. There is enough water here to give the local soccer team a full grass field, cows graze around the town and the contrast with the route today cannot be bigger. Tomorrow the rally goes from El Dahkla to Baharia with almost 300 kilometers special stage. It is the second big roadbook in the desert, which will be a challenge for the teams. Everyone is delighted to know the start is early. The first teams will reach Baharia around noon.
author: ‘Niels Hatzmann, World4x4.org / Dutch Rally Press