G-Force Motorsport

Pharaons Rally Day 5. Day of the Desert Fox

Friday, 07 October 2011 22:28

5.2 Today was billed as the event's hardest and at the time of writing,
just before dark, only 7 of the 20 something field still running have
made it back to camp. Some are enjoying a well-deserved beer, but many
others are still in the desert somewhere digging desperately as night

5.1 There was no access for the press to the dunes, the experience was to
be for drivers only, but we found a nice place on the edge of a
plateau, took some photos of Jean-Louis Schlesser as he ambled by and
then waited patiently for those behind him. It should have been Jun
5.3 Mitsuhashi next but instead it was Boris Gadasin in his G-Force Proto
next, flying over the bumps that Schlesser had somehow slipped around
and then the Mitsibishi of the Romanian Costel Casueneau before the
Japanese Toyota driver came into view... is he about to loose 2nd to
5.4 the determined Russian?

One Russian who didn't come into view was winner of the first stage
Vladimir Vasiliev. His G-Force lost a wheel near the start and the T4
service truck that was following close behind didn't have the right
5.6 part with it... and the T5 service truck was 400km away at the far
distant CP... so his race, which started so brightly, came to an end.
But remember his name, you will see it again!

With so many still missing the camp is a very empty place 5.7 but one car,
one of the RallyRaid.co.uk Desert Warriors, was proudly pulled up
beside the service truck. Getting through the 444km stage in 5th
place, and coming back so soon that team boss Beady had to kick the
mechanics awake, were the two Peters, Merceij and 5.8 Lanser. “Our
speciality is driving at an average speed,” said the driving Peter.
“If someone overtakes us then we don't fight, but then we catch them
again when they are stuck. OK, we got stuck in the dunes once, like
most people, but we used the hydraulic jacks and let 5.9 some air out of
the tyres and we drove straight off again, and it was good to pass so
much more expensive cars!

Making it through the stage, albeit more than two hours behind the
winner was Costel Casueneau who was sitting on his 5.10 truck today rather
than lying under it, but it was not an easy day for the friendly
Romanian. “We had a puncture, but what was painful was getting stuck 7
times! The path through the high dunes was very narrow and everyone
had been through before so there was nothing easy to drive on, the
sand was very messy. The last time was the worst and my co-driver was
sick all day, so it was a very good feeling to get to the finish
(And hello to Costel's father who should be reading this! Your boy's
5.11 doing good, sir!)

Taking a fine 3rd place was Ukraine's Vadym Nesterchuk in his Sixt
Team Mitsibishi L200. “Actually I was expecting a harder stage,” he
said. “The organisers did a good job of frightening everyone and the
dunes were soft, yes, but if you had the right pressures in your tyres
then it wasn't too bad. The rest of the stage was good too, very fast
and needed a lot of concentration, especially the white sand that
reflect the sun. But it would be a bad stage for the guys in
Production class. I guess there's still a few of them out there... Oh,
and the last 30km were great fun, constant jumps, all the way home!”

2nd today, a result that he wasn't completely happy with, was
G-Force's Boris Gadasin. “We got stuck twice and we lost about half an
hour because of this,” he shrugged. “But apart from that I really
liked the stage. I don't like just driving flat out, so I enjoyed the
technical parts today. The dunes were very complicated, they had
several rises on one face so you had to choose the trajectory very
well. But something really positive is that this was the hardest
stage, my cool-suit failed a couple of days ago, yet I feel fine...
ready to go out and do it again!”

Seeing his cushion over the Russian cut by 10 minutes, bringing it
down to just 16 was Jun Mitsuhashi in his Toyota Land Cruiser. “Again
it was just a high speed course,” the affable Japanese driver said.
“So I had nothing to do. We didn't get stuck but had to find our way
through the dunes a couple of times, changing our mind half way up and
then starting again from the bottom... but it was hard... I'm sure
that there will be a lot of people not coming home tonight. And
tomorrow... with 16 minutes in front of the Proto... there is no other
plan... just drive fast!”

In the same class and in the same type of car as Mitsuhashi is the
much-liked Ilya Kuznetsov, but he didn't have such a good day. “Just
lots of small problems,” explained his co-driver Roman Elagin. “There
was some electrical problem in the engine which meant that we had no
power and after all the jumps we killed the shock absorbers... so we
went very slowly to service in CP1... but soon the engine fault came
back. We tried turning it off and on 10 or 15 times but all we could
do was drive out slooooowly. But tomorrow everything will be fixed and
we will go again.”

Top of the timesheet honour again went to the sand master whose
nickname is Desert Fox... none other than Mr Jean-Louis Schlesser. “It
was rough, rough, rough today!” he said, although he didn't look as if
he'd just driven more than 400 hard kilometres at top speed through
the desert. “We didn't have a single track to follow today, it was all
off road! Some of the dunes were hard too and I had to concentrate a
lot. There were tracks from the bikes everywhere but they are not
useful to follow as they just go everywhere, so we had to find our own
way... but it was very soft sand in there and they put the CP right in
the hardest place..!”

Now one more stage, a 350km blast back to Cairo, is all that stands
between the French master and a second consecutive Pharaons Rally
victory, but perhaps more importantly it brings him to just 18 points
behind championship leader Leonid Novistsky... And 30 are available in
the last round in the Portalegre 500 in Portugal at the end of the
month... But it will have to be just the road in front that he should
concentrate on as last year he rolled on the same stage...  Mitsuhashi
will also have to resist looking over his shoulder as Gadasin, who
with a true never-give-up Russian attitude will be flat out again...

1.Jean-Louis Schlesser Schlesser Original Buggy 19.50.41
2.Jun Mitsuhashi Toyota Land Cruiser                  21.57.00
3.Boris Gadasin G-Force Proto                              22.13.01
4.Vadym Nesterchuk Mitsibishi L200                    23.04.20
5.Costel Casueneau  Mitsibishi MPR13                 27.19.51

Robb Pritchard