‘I have number one’, says Nasser Al-Attiyah with a smile, after winning the Pharaons 2015. It was not an easy win. Last years’ winner Yazeed was fast but could not keep up as the pace of the leaders in the Worldcup Cross Country seems to go up race after race.
Piatek wins the bike category, Mohamed Abu Issi is the fastest quad. It has been a great battle in the Pharaons Rally this year with many competitors racing wheel-to-wheel on the track and sharing the evening meal at the same table. The Pharaons Rally has a special feeling to it, with the bivouac and the big tent where you meet at night and share the stories of the day among racers, assistance and organisation.
‘I am lucky to be Nassers’ navigator,’ says Matthieu Baumel, explaining how they won the Pharaons Rally. ‘Nasser has a great eye for the terrain, and with the number of races we do together we are trained to see changes in the landscape easily and to find even the difficult points in the roadbook.’ When opening a track as first competitor you have to work to find the route and at speed it gets even more difficult. ‘First of all you have to be 100% prepared, as you cannot take any risk’ says Matthieu. ‘And then you need some luck, and this time it was on our side!’
Yazeed is sad, but happy to be second in the Pharaons Rally. ‘A winner knows how to lose a battle.’ he said earlier this week. Timo Gottschalk, his navigator, agrees with him. ‘We had some bad luck and lost a lot of time on the second and fourth stage. Yesterday we were too careful and on this level of competition you see it immediately.’ Sad that they lost the titel, but happy to be second behind a great sportsman, Yazeed and Timo celebrate on the podium with Nasser and Matthieu.
‘I hoped for a top five,’ says Jakub Piatek. ‘There are some incredible bikers at the start of the Pharaons, such as Chavo Salvatierra and Balooshi but this week I’ve had a lot of luck.’ Knowing that he was at least 1 minute per 100 km slower than the others he had to make up time. ‘My arm is still hurting from the full throttle, I kept it open as wide as possible.’ He is most impressed by the navigation in this race. ‘Can you imagine doing 50 km on cap, through the dunes? Incredible!’
Balooshi had the most adventurous day of the Pharaons Rally today, when he ran out of luck and out of fuel 9 km before the refueling point. He managed to fix the problem with the pump but after 4 km the bike stopped again and he had to walk. ‘I pushed like there was no tomorrow. Once I pushed my motocross bike, but this is much, much heavier. If I don’t win every other position is good, but I did not want to give up. After the start I was leading and I could have won here. When the bike stopped at first I was heartbroken, but maybe God had a different plan.
Erik van Loon comes out of the car with a sad look on his face. ‘Turbo!’ he says. ‘We lost the turbo, right after CP1. Without turbo you can go 60-70 kmh with the car, very annoying. We had a great time before CP1 with only a few minutes lost in Yazeeds’ dust. After CP1 we heard ‘PANG’ and it was gone. I want to go home and start over again! With this result we have no chance in the Worldcup so we will think what to do next. I would like to race a FIA event as training for the Dakar, we have to make up our mind.’
Racedirector Stephane Henrard looks back at a great Pharaons Rally. His plans for next year? ‘I dream about doing it on the bike,’ he says. It sounds familiar, when you venture into Egypt and work on an event like this, how could you not wish to be able to join the competition? The landscape gives you the feeling of overwhelming beauty, the race stands on the shoulders of giants, with the history of Egypt and of rallyraid combined in one event. ‘Pharaons is different!’
TEXT & PHOTO: Niels Hatzmann, Dutch Rally Press
Nasser Al-Attiyah wins Pharaons rally 2015