CAIRO: The 12th edition of the proverbial Pharaons International Cross Country Rally ran just under 3,000 km, through four major oases of Egypt in the Sahara Desert, Oct. 4-10t.
JVD International (www.jvd.it), in collaboration with the Egyptian Federation for Motor Sports (EFMS) and Sakkara Travel Group, managed to pull it off with flying colors, under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Defense and the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt. The International Federation of Motos (FIM) approved 74 motorbikes to race for World Championship, won this year by the renowned French Cyril Despres, a close friend of the legend Richard Sainct who died racing in the Pharaons 2004.
Luca Manca (Italy) and Jakub Przigonsky (Poland) secured second and third positions.
There were no trucks this year, but over 50 percent of the 19 FIA-approved (International Federation of Automobiles) cars were Egyptian teams, a feat in itself and a record for the host country in all of the 25 years of the Pharaons.
The neophytes Ahmed El-Shami and Karim El-Hamawy, of the Rally Raid Egypt Team, caused quite a stir as their names were called out for several prizes in the ceremony in Cairo Oct. 11, achieving first in Diesel cars, first Egyptian, fifth overall.
Major EFMS prizes were also won by Rally Raid Egypt, Ahmed El-Sirgany and Alain Besancon and Sand Sea Sailors Tarek El-Erian for the Egypt Rally Championship 2009.
Mido Abdelhamid Abouyoussef and Mahmoud Wahid Ali (Egypt) won the seventh stage of the rally and gained a prize for first 2WD.
Hany Omar and Tamer El-Bahany (Egypt) won the first stage of the rally. Both are part of Sand Sea Sailors team and racing Cotel Buggies.
The veteran Azzam El-Faruqi and Ahmed Badr showed his usual verve and made it on the podium in eighth position with his Jeep Cherokee.
Bowler Wildcats purred majestically on the podium against the backdrop of the Pyramids after seven ephemeral sunrises and seven challenging stages.
In the order of overall wins, in first place Jerome Pelichet and Eugenie Decre (France); second Roberto and Nicola Tonetti (Italy); and third Michel Visy and Philippe Bourquin.
Parallel to Cars and Motorbikes, there was a Pharaons Raid and Classic this year of 29 cars.
The varied terrain in the Pharaons makes this event unique on all levels and a perfect training ground for the Dakar rally. This year was no exception.
Despite the global recession and tight budgets there was unprecedented media coverage this year both internationally and locally, making this a fertile field for sponsors.
The charismatic presence of Jacky Ickx, JVD Organizer, was greatly missed this year. Next year Pharaons will hopefully see his return. Daniele Cotto, JVD, took the stage this year and led the renegade spirit of the organization.
Great lessons were learned this year and most of the caravan separated on Oct. 12 with a sense of humility and appetite for the future race.