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·         Overdrive Racing’s Al-Rajhi claims three wins out of five selective sections


CAIRO (EGYPT): Overdrive Racing’s trio of Toyota Hiluxes missed out on a second successive victory in the Egyptian Pharaons Rally. Team drivers, Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Marek Dabrowski, and Reinaldo Varela reached the finish at the pyramids in Giza in second, fourth and sixth positions.


Al-Rajhi and his German navigator Timo Gottschalk claimed three stage wins on the fourth round of the 2015 World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies on their way to second place behind rally winner Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.


The Brazilian duo of Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin recorded the second quickest time in the fourth stage and began the last day in fourth place before slipping two positions in the overall standings on the final day.


Poland’s Marek Dabrowski and his navigator Jacek Czachor finished fifth overall in the Team Orlen-backed Toyota Hilux after another solid performance.


Al-Rajhi set the pace through the opening 228km stage that followed a liaison of 215km from the start in El Alamein to a finish in Tibniya. The Saudi led Al-Attiyah by two minutes and Varela and Dabrowski slotted into fifth and sixth positions in the second and third Toyotas. 


“We started the stage in eighth and we caught five cars,” said Al-Rajhi. “We overtook three of them and followed the other two. It was a good stage for us. The only problem was my co-driver’s seat broke after 30km and was loose to the end of the stage.”


Vladimir Vasilyev claimed the victory on the second loop stage of 343.02km around the Tibniya bivouac, via the towering Sitra dunes and running close to the former Dakar stopover in Siwa. Varela finished the stage in fourth position and held fifth, but Al-Rajhi lost valuable time stuck in a sandy depression between two dunes, set the fifth quickest time and slipped to third overall. 


“We were pushing at the limit from the start,” admitted the Saudi. “But, after km 240, we got stuck in a ditch between two sand dunes and we lost five minutes to Nasser (Al-Attiyah).” Dabrowski was sixth in the third Overdrive Toyota and held a similar position in the overall classification. 


The Saudi was back in a competitive pace through the third selective section of 319km, which looped around Tibniya via Farafra. Al-Rajhi started the stage in fifth and claimed his second fastest time of the event and moved back to second overall, a mere 2min 16sec behind Al-Attiyah. “We had two big moments in the stage and nearly landed on the nose of the car,” insisted the Saudi. “I had a little bit of a sore neck and then, 100km from the finish, we got a puncture.”


Varela and Dabrowski recorded the fifth and sixth quickest times and maintained similar positions in the overall standings before the penultimate loop stage of 319km through the Egyptian desert and around the Tibniya bivouac. The finding of an archaeological site in the days before the rally meant that this stage was cancelled and competitors were taken through a repeat of the second Tibniya loop.


Al-Rajhi was fifth on the road and pushed hard from the start of the next section but he was not able to find a waypoint after the first passage control and lost over one and a half minutes trying to find the correct route. 


With less emphasis on the navigation though the repeated special stage, Varela was on good form and the second quickest time pushed the Brazilian up to fourth place behind Al-Attiyah, Vasilyev and Al-Rajhi. Dabrowski was fifth.


The final stage of 339.29km follows a winding desert trail to Cairo and on to the finish in Giza. Al-Rajhi attacked again and claimed his third fastest time from the five stages to move back into second place behind Al-Attiyah. 


2015 Pharaons Rally – positions after SS5 (unofficial @ 13.00 hrs):

1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Mini All4 Racing           13hr 59min 59sec 

2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Overdrive Toyota Hilux                14hr 06min 32sec

3. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing                 14hr 08min 17sec

4. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Jacek Czachor (POL) Overdrive Toyota Hilux                 14hr 56min 07sec

5. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE)/Maciej Marton (POL) H3 Evo 7                                         15hr 08min 04sec

6. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux            15hr 13min 59sec