Khaled ‘Capo’ posts best results for an Egyptian motorcyclist in the Pharaons Rally
By Ahmed Mansour and Kaylan Geiger
Motorbike racer Khaled Abdel Mawgoud, aka Khaled Capo, has made his mark in the sand — across 3,000 kilometers of it. In May, he was the only Egyptian competing in the motorcycle category of the 2014 Pharaons Cross Country Rally, posting the best cumulative stage results by an Egyptian in the history of the race. While the rally is part of the world championship circuit for automobiles and motorcycles, Khaled Capo races for personal and national pride.
“I always wanted to be a part of the Pharaons Rally,” he says. “Even though the event is in Egypt, no Egyptian had ever left a lasting impression on the race, which always bothered me.”
This year, the week-long rally’s six stages took competitors in cars, trucks, motorbikes and quads from the Red Sea resort town of El Gouna over a grueling route through the eastern mountains to Luxor and up through four Western Desert oases before arriving at the Giza Plateau. Capo took on the course in the 450cc category with a Yamaha WR450F, finishing 7th in the super special stage, 8th in the first stage, 17th in the second stage, 4th in the fourth stage, and 2nd in the final. Due to technical difficulties, he did not complete the fifth stage, so while he gets credit for completing the rally, he was not ranked among the finishers overall.
Competing at the international level has been a life-long dream for Capo. “I first started riding when I was 14,” he says. “My friends and I were inspired by riders such as the Italian Franco Picco, and that is when I started training professionally to make it in the field.”
His love of motorbikes also led to his passion for the desert, and by 2000 he was arranging motor safaris to Red Sea hotspots like Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada. Capo first competed in the local Al-Ahram Rally in 2007, and in 2008 he placed second in that race.
For financial reasons, though, the Pharaons Rally was far out of Capo’s reach until 2012, when he teamed up with Khaled Nasser, the regional director of RE/MAX Egypt. A fellow fan of motorcycle sports, Nasser arranged for the local arm of the real estate giant to back Capo, who says RE/MAX funded everything he needed for the rally: the bike, his technical support team, even the registration fees for the race.
“As soon as he realized what I am capable of, he started helping me,” Capo recalls. “They sponsored me in the 2012 Pharaons Rally, where I finished in 21st place. It was the first time I was able to compete in an international contest.”
It was also the first time in 15 years that an Egyptian motorcyclist had completed the Pharaons Rally. Not only do riders need a lot of experience in general, Capo notes, they need to be prepared for Egypt’s diverse landscapes. “This is why Egypt is considered to be a hot spot for off-road bikers,” he says. “Every type of terrain requires a different riding technique.”
Capo says safety is a key factor: “No one should ever consider riding in the desert without full body armor, including knee guards, chest protection, helmet and boots. The desert is full of rocks and stones that can injure or even kill you if they hit you at high speed.”
Like every rally racer, Capo has a technical team to keep the bike running and monitor his health. But on the course, he has to rely on himself. “In the cars category, there is a driver who maneuvers through the terrain and a co-driver who navigates,” he explains. “A biker needs to be able to do both jobs simultaneously. It’s a very difficult task.”
With one rally notched on his handlebars, Capo was eager for the 2013 race, but the political turmoil after former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted led rally organizers to postpone the Pharaons Rally to May 2014. Meanwhile, RE/MAX got him a 2013 model bike and lined him up with more training and technical support. Capo says it paid off.
“With hard work and a lot of effort, I finished the final stage in second place,” he says. “This is the best stage finish by an Egyptian in the history of the Pharaons Rally.”
Capo credits RE/MAX and Khaled Nasser in particular for their support of his racing aspirations. “Even though the country wasn’t stable at the time he stuck with me until the end.”
This story has been updated to clarify that Khaled Capo’s rally results were the best for an Egyptian in his race category.