Tough competition from the start
The prologue near the beach of El Gouna was a short track on gravel and salt, with wet patches from the last high tide. Long curves made it fun to drive, drifting from one side to the other and entertaining the spectators with a spectacular driving style. The competition amoung the cars was tough from the very first moment, with Nasser Al-Attiyah, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Marek Dabrowski chasing each other for the best spot on the podium. Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar pushed their new Mini but not too much, finishing in the fifth place, 11 seconds after the first car.
Today was for Nasser Al-Attiyah, who had the fastest time in the prologue and saved Erik van Loon at the briefing. The FIA lets the top 5 drivers play a small game: they choose amoung themselves to decide the starting order for the 1st stage. Erik van Loon decided to keep his place as fifth car, but the others moved him up. 4Th, 3rd, 2nd.. and then the winner of the prologue Nasser Al-Attiyah had to choose his starting position. ‘I need number one’ he said, choosing the biggest challenge by opening the stage tomorrow together with his codriver Matthieu Baumel.
Dr. Keiko showed her spirit today and took the effort of towing Dario de Lorenzo through the finishline after an engine failure. Directly after the start Dario’s car blew black smoke, but they managed to finish with help of Hamaguchi Keiko and Umberto Fiori. ‘I am here to finish,’ Hamaguchi said, ‘and to enjoy rallyraid in Egypt!’
Kobus potgieter third on prologue
Juan Carlos Salvatierra was unsure about his result after finishing second in the prologue. ‘Look at the roadbook for tomorrow!’ he said, ’33 kilometers without reference, it will be so difficult!’ Most riders had the forthcoming stages in mind during the prologue, being most carefull to avoid any damage. Kobus Potgieter from South Africa was surprised with his third place in this Worldcup event: ‘I did not expect any of this, I just rode like I always do!’
David Pontich from Canada spent the last 12 years in Egypt, riding the dunes to the west of the Nile. ‘This race is a dream for me, I saw it for the last twelve years and always wanted to join. Now I have had a year off and this is the perfect finish of a beautifull year!’ Like the other Egyptian teams he knows the terrain very well. ‘Only the stages in the west!’ David adds, ‘I did not ride in the eastern part of Egypt so I will be carefull the first two days. After that I will push a bit more, I know the area around Dahkla and Baharia so it should be easier.’
Wessel bosman: I start slow
Wessel Bosman from South Africa came to finish last in the prologue. ‘I will take it easy, the next days will need my attention.’ His project, driving the KTM 450 from Capetown to the Pharaons Rally in memory of his son was noticed by KTM, who kindly invited him to Mattighofen after the race!
In the evening a press conference was held in the University auditorium with all the officials and representatives of the government, FIA, FIM and organization. Some riders came dusty, directly from the bivouac, others had more luck and time to refresh. Racedirector Stephane Henrard had a clear message. ‘We want to show the world what is possible in Egypt,’ he said. ‘With the help of the government and the trust and support of the FIA and you as competitors we will have a Worldcup event in Egypt.’ The effort cannot be underestimated. ‘I have seen the preparations for this event, and I wish I still was a racingdriver like I used to be,’ said Richard Schilling, president of the cross country commission of the FIA, showing his enthousiasm for the Pharaons.
The first stage of the Pharaons on the 20th of may will be rocky, going through a vulcanic area reaching up to 1000 meters. 225 Kilometers of special stage are followed by almost 150 kilometers of liaison. ‘There will be thight canyons, red rocks and sand,’ Mahmud Nour el Din explained after the briefing. ‘The teams will climb the rocks, go off-piste and they have to find their way through the mountains. When we reach the south the landscape changes dramatically as the track goes along the Nile into Luxor.’ It will be a fast stage: the first teams are expected to finish before noon!
author: ‘Niels Hatzmann, World4x4.org / Dutch Rally Press