Driver ecstatic after setting fastest time in the Pharaohs International Cross-Country Rally between Cairo and Tibniya despite illness.
Dubai's Khalifa Al Mutaiwei wins a battle
TIBNIYA, EGYPT // Dubai's Khalifa Al Mutaiwei and his German co-driver Andreas Schulz stayed on course for the 2012 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies title as they set the fastest time on the first 547-kilometre section of the Pharaohs International Cross-Country Rally between Cairo and Tibniya in the Egyptian desert today.
"Before the stage I was not feeling well and did not want to push too hard so to win the stage was a bonus," said Al Mutaiwei, who led from the start of the opening special stage in his X-raid Mini All4 Racing and now leads his title rival Jean-Louis Schlesser by 21 minutes, 45 seconds. "There is still a long way to go but it has been a good start."
The event across the Egyptian deserts is the penultimate round of the championship and, being a cross country race rather than a "Baja" it counts for double points in the standings.
Al Mutaiwei - who drives for the Fazza Rally Team - has an eight-point advantage over Schlesser in the drivers' championship, with 60 points available to for the winner of the Egypt event, with 42 for second place and 32 for third.
Al Mutaiwei led Schlesser by one minute, 23 seconds through the first passage control point and extended that lead to one minute, 53 seconds through PC2.
The Emirati driver reached the third checkpoint more than five minutes in front of the Frenchman Regis Delahaye, with Schlesser more than 22 minutes behind.
Al Mutaiwei maintained his composure through the latter kilometres of the stage and completed the stage in two hours, 47 minutes, 17 seconds to secure the stage win and a perfect start to his Egyptian campaign.
Delahaye finished the day in second overall, seven minutes, 25 seconds behind Al Mutaiwei, with another French driver, Patrick Sireyol, third.
Crews will tackle a desert loop stage around the Tibniya bivouac today and then the route heads from Tibniya to Abu Mingar tomorrow. The fourth stage is a loop section around Abu Mingar on Thursday and the penultimate special stage forges its way across the desert towards Tibniya on Friday.
The final stage on Saturday heads from Tibniya to Cairo, where the podium finish will take place in the afternoon.
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