The UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi took a considerable lead at the end of the first day of the Pharaons Rally in Egypt yesterday, one minute 47 seconds clear of Poland’s Jakub Piatek with Bolivia’s Juan Salvatierra two minutes 34 seconds further back in third place.
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Balooshi, the top ranked rider in the bikes section, opened his campaign from fourth on the start line but soon caught up with the riders ahead of him near the 50km mark. The Emirati thereafter took the lead and widened the gap with the others, riding solo for most part of the morning until his bike was hit by mechanical problems that threatened to ruin his first day and possibly his chances of winning along the Mediterranean coast.
Balooshi said: “Everything was going according to plan, when suddenly the bike started spilling oil and splashing it all over.
“Once the oil had reached the back of the bike I completely lost the brakes as well. I didn’t know where the oil was coming from and feared it could be an engine problem which would have meant the end of the rally for us.”
The problems that troubled Balooshi forced him to reduce his speed dramatically, which cut the gap to Poland’s Piatek.
Balooshi added: “I couldn’t see the origin of the leak so I thought it was the engine and with no brakes, plus suspension not working properly, I decided to slow down and try to make it safely to the bivouac.”
Riding under tough conditions for nearly 150km and doubts over whether he would make it to the finish or not, Balooshi was naturally a relieved man on reaching the overnight halt. Balooshi’s team were already aware of their rider’s problems with the bike and were at hand the moment he entered the bivouac.
Team manager Mahir Badri, from Sports2, said: “We are very happy to have Mohammed and his bike safe at the bivouac.
“We are also delighted to have the support of Orlen Team, the official KTM satellite team, helping us. Even before reaching the service area we were aware of the problems and once the mechanics started working on the bike, they found out the source of the problem was the cooler.
“The box broke, probably from a rock hitting it, and the oil leak later damaged both brakes systems. We will replace it and hopefully we will have Mohammed ready to start Leg 2 in the morning.”
Balooshi added: “The terrain on Leg 2 will be desert and I usually feel very comfortable riding on dunes. But we have a long week ahead. This is only the first day and we will do our best tomorrow.”
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