A navigation mistake yesterday cost Mohammed Al Balooshi the lead of the Pharaons Rally in Egypt and possibly a first ever title at the international event, which draws to a close with the fifth and final stage in front of the pyramids in Cairo today.
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After dominating the rally for the first three days which gave him a commanding five minute 25-second lead over Jakub Piatek of Poland at the end of Leg 3 on Thursday, Balooshi committed a navigational error yesterday and lost his way in the Egyptian desert.
Balooshi was unable to find his way back for a considerable amount of time which gave Piatek the opening he was after to reel in Balooshi.
The beginning of the penultimate stage actually went well for Balooshi, the Emirati going fastest to the first passage control (PC), but hitting trouble on the next PC.
Leg 4 was won by another title contender in the bikes category, Bolivia’s Juan Carlos Salvatierra, who completed the penultimate stage in a time of three hours 53 minutes and is now in second place overall.
Going into the decisive final leg today, Balooshi is three minutes 04 seconds off Piatek’s pace and any serious assault on the title will require a Herculean effort from the Emirati.
In fact, the title could still go to any of the top three, given that Salvatierra is just two minutes 38 seconds behind Piatek, where speed, technique and luck could well play their part in equal measure over the final 339km today.
An obviously disappointed Balooshi said: “I made a small mistake in the navigation that took me off track and then I had trouble finding the waypoint.
“I lost some valuable time trying to find it [waypoint], and since the competition is high I ended up losing the lead.
“It is really annoying but at the same time that is exactly the beauty and extreme difficulty of this rally; a small human error can cost you a lot but sometimes, like in my case, you have the opportunity to fight back and give it another shot the next day.”
Despite the severe setback to his title chances, the Emirati remains positive, adding: “We have one more day and I will keep pushing and will do my very best, that I can promise. It is not over yet.”
Bolivian Salvatierra was thrilled with his stage victory and said: “Today I have finally done my race, considering that the stage was the same as the day before yesterday.
“I have pushed hard since the beginning today. After 30km I was overtaken by [quad rider Mohammed] Abu Issa and have since raced solo up to the end.”
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