The second edition of the Fenix Rally, which took place in Tunisia from 12 to 19 March, offered 7 fantastic days of competition with an exclusive first special stage on the sands of the Mediterranean Sea not far from Hammamet. 2,200 kilometers that took the participants from Tunis, to Douz and Ksar Ghilane and then to finish again in Douz. Mathew Grid (bike), Antanas Kanopkinas (ATV), Benoit Lepietre (SVV), Urvo Mannama (Car Open), Daniel Vetter (Car Limited) and William van Groningen (Truck) are the winners of the Fenix Rally 2022.
Photography by Paolo Baraldi, Story by Hristomir Nikolov
Fenix Rally 2022: new terrains and deeper in the Tunisian desert for more fun and emotion
The Fenix Rally 2022, compared to the last edition, offered to its participants even more challenges with new terrain and new routes that went deeper into the heart of the Saharan desert. The course involved nearly 2200 (2115.6 real km) kilometers, with over 1300 (1279.5 real km) of special stages.
163 teams from 15 nations were present at the start, with 41 bikes, 11 quads, 34 cars, 40 SSVs and 7 trucks. For the second time we are registering the Discovery category, which offered so many great tracks and places for the participants, but without the pressure of time and speed. Nearly 30 crews and drivers ventured into the challenge of driving in the heart of the desert in this category.
For this second edition, the Fenix Rally started from Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, where the bivouac was set up near the Palace of Culture where the administrative and technical checks took place.
The official start ceremony in the city of Tunis in front of the Cultural Center of Tunis, saw the presence of national and local authorities.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 1: from Mediterranean Sea to Sahara
The second edition of the race in Tunisia started at full throttle.
After the official ceremony in Tunis early in the morning on 13th March. Almost 170 vehicles from any classes took the challenge of 7 racing days and almost 2300 km, most of them – in the hearth of the Sahara Desert.
The first racing day offered to the participants 2 special stages, separated by a long liaison (the only one of this year’s rally). SS1 included only 25 kilometers, direct on the seaside, near the city of Hammamet. After 380 km on the road, the second part of the stage, 74 km long, took part from El Hamma to Douz, entering the first small dunes of Sahara.
Starting with the cars, it was the crew Urvo Mannama – Risto Lepik (#221) with their fats desert bolide Century Racing CR6, who took their maiden stage win of Fenix Rally 2022. The team from Estonia overtook the tandem from Netherland Ronald Schoolderman – Mark Salomons (#222, Mitsubishi ASX-1) with 3 minutes on the finish. Third for the day was another Dutch car – this of Rients Hofstra and Ever Boersma (#218, Nissan Navara Proto).
In the car limited class (widely known as T2 in the rally-raid world), fastest for the day was the German team of Olaf Seip and Matthias Stock (#215, Land Rover Defender).
The fastest bike in the first day of the rally was those of Christian Pastori (Husqvarna, #46). The Italian rider had an advantage of 1:55 min. in front of the South African pilot Matthew Grid (KTM, #7). Top 3 for the day was for the Frenchman Mickael Jacobi (GasGas, #30), who came to the finish only 21 seconds slower than Grid.
It was double French podium in the quad class, with Nicolas Martinez (Yamaha, #16) fastest for the day. Moreover, the second place came to his brother Gaetan Martinez (Can-Am, #14), who “stole” only 13 second from the Latvian rider Adomas Gancierus (CFMOTO, #2).
In the most crowded class – those of the SSV buggies, there was again French team on the top. Benoit Lepietre (Can-Am, #414) leaded the convoy with a bit more than a minute advance to Kris Maennama (Estonia, Can-Am, #440), and with 2 minutes ahead of the 3rd – Adam Kus from Poland (Can-Am, #441).
Last but not least, Fenix Rally 2022 for the first time has a truck class on the start. Among the seven behemoths in the race, William Groningen (Iveco, #505) flew the stage with almost 10 minutes distance with the second fastest for the day – his compatriot Alexander Koot (DAF, #506). Third in the finish came the German pilot Ralf Britz (MAN KAT, #504), with 24:30 min. passive from the winner.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 2: first battle with the dunes
Changes among all classes after the sandy trip around Douz.
The second day of Fenix Rally 2022 give the competitors the first real taste of the Tunisian desert. Even that there was a single 168 km special stage, it was not an ordinary “walk in the park”: 50% of the rally track passed through the dunes. White sand and fesh-fesh fields followed by some fast tracks passing the national park Jebil were in the menu of the day. And this changed a lot of things in the rankings, almost in every class.
Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218) was the fastest in the Car Open class, overtaking with almost 6 minutes Urvo Mannama (Century Racing CR6, #221). These means that the general ranking has new leader, as the Dutch pilot now has a tiny advance in front of his Estonian rival. Third for the day, the finish line crossed another racer from the Netherlands - Rik Van Den Brink (Mitsubishi ASX Proto, #224).
Moving to Car Limited, it was once again Olaf Seip (Land Rover Defender, #215) from Germany, who get the stage win.
There were changings also in the SSVs rankings, as Tomas Guzauskas (Can-Am, #430) took the daily win in the most crowded class of Fenix Rally 2022. The Lithuanian had advance of almost 14 minutes to his compatriot Tomas Mickus (Can-Am, #420). Third on the finish line arrived the all-female crew of Lea Gauthier and Delphine Delfino from France (Yamaha, #411).
Matthew Grid (KTM, #7) is the new leader among the bikers, as he was faultless in the dunes of the stage. The South African made it with some 5 minutes faster than Arto Kalliounen from Finland (KTM, #44). Third for the day, at the finish near Douz arrived the Lithuanian rider Justas Grendelis (KTM, #20).
Another double podium, but this time for Lithuania, marked the second day of Fenix Rally 2022 in the ATV class. The stage win was for Antanas Kanopkinas (#33), who finished with only 53 seconds in front of his teammate from CFMOTO Racing Adomas Gancierus (#2). Top 3 completed Piffare Guillaume from France (KTM, #65).
The truck class was the only one without changes of the leaders, as William Groningen (Iveco, #505) from Netherlands took his second consecutive stage win. Moreover, the Dutch driver came to the finish with a huge advance of almost 2 hours ahead of his compatriot Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507). Third for the was the German Ralf Britz (MAN KAT, #504).
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 3: wind of change
Modified route and great battles marked the day in Sahara.
The 3rd racing day of Fenix Rally 2022 was marked by the heavy winds in the desert in the region of Douz. This was the reason that Alex Kovatchev and his crew were forced to change the initial itinerary, to avoid the low visibility and safety concerns. Thus, the competitors drove the first part of the route from day 5 in Jebil National Park with 58 km against the clock, and after came back to the second part of the original stage, to cover some more 130 km special stage between Ksar Ghilane and Cafè Tarzan.
Starting with the bikes, Christian Pastori (#46, Husqvarna) took his second stage win in Fenix 2022. The Italian claimed some 3 minutes over the second for the day Mickael Jacobi (#30, Gas Gas), and 3rd on the finish came the Polish rider Bartolomej Tabin (#50, KTM), only 21 seconds behind the Frenchman. Pastori is now ranked 3rd in the general standings, where leader is Matthew Grid (KTM, #7), who finished the day on 5th place. Jacobi holds the 2nd position, with tiny 9 seconds behind the South African.
In the ATV class, it was Adomas Gancierus (#2) who was fastest for the day. The Lithuanian rider of CFMOTO “stole” the unbelievable 9 seconds from his compatriot Jonas Lipavicius (#64, Can Am) and also shocking 35 seconds from the French rider Gaetan Martinez (#14, Can Am). The stage win helped Gancierus to climb on top of the overall, where he is 1:43 min, ahead of his compatriot and teammate Antanas Kanopkinas (#33, 4th place in the stage) and almost 10 minutes in front of Martinez - not Gaetan, but his brother Nicolas (5th for the day).
Moving to SSV, there was brand new trio on the daily podium. First on the finish was the Estonian Kris Maennama (#440, Can Am), followed by Macej Stolarski from Poland (#437, Can Am) and the Frenchman Benoit Lepietre (#414, Can Am). Lepietre regain control in the overall standings, where he has 5:47 min. advance to Stolarski. Third in the general ranking sits Tomas Mickus (Can-Am, #420) from Lithuania, who managed to finish 8th for the day.
Urvo Mannama (#221) and his fantastic desert “rocket” Century CR6 were undoubted winners of leg 3 in the Cars Open class, with a very fast driving in the dunes. The pilot from Estonia managed to finish with more than 3 minutes in front of Ronald Schoolderman (#222, Mitsubishi ASX-1). Third at the flag came Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218), who is still leading the overall standings, but now only 49 second ahead of Mannama. Third in the general ranking is another Estonian – Joel Purga (4th place in the stage), who is driving a prototype Mulkland Mos1, which we usually see in the Extreme category of Breslau Poland.
The famous veteran from the RBI competitions since many years – Gilles Girousse (#207, Toyota), was the fastest in the Cars Limited class. The daily win helped the Frenchman to climb on the 2nd place in the overall. On the top is siting the German Claus Walden (#220), also with Toyota, with 9 minutes advance.
William Van Groningen (Iveco, #505) is confidently advancing towards the title in the Truck classo f Fenix Rally 2022. The Dutchman flew the stage, taking 16 minutes advance in front of his fellow countryman Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507). Third for the day was Klaas Steinhoefel (#503) from Germany with MAN KAT – a position which allows him to be 2nd in the overall, in front of Van Velsen.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 4: May the Force be with you!
The longest day of the race was stormy – in many terms.
The 4th racing day of Fenix Rally 2022 was the longest of this year’s itinerary. The competitors faced two special stages with total distance of the route of 457 km, 253 of which – against the clock. The first special stage of 160 km touched one of the most famous places in Tunisia: the location of episode IV of Star Wars located between Tozeur and Nefta. The territory around Kibili was the protagonist of the daily second special stage of 93 km. The sandy tracks and dirt roads were the playing field of this amazing day.
Urvo Mannama (#221) took his second consecutive stage win (and a total of three so far) in the Car Open class. The Estonian pilot and his bolide Century CR6 arrived at the finish with 5:40 minutes advance of Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218). Third for the day was another Dutchman – Rick Van Den Brink (#224, Mitsubishi ASX).
The daily triumph helped Mannama to gain control in the overall standings, where he is now 4:51 min in front of Hofstra. Third place in the general ranking is for Joel Purga from Estonia (#237, Mulkland Mos1), who managed to complete the day in 5th place.
In the Car Limited class*, Daniel Vetter (#211, Toyota Land Cruiser) from Switzerland took command on the rankings, after finished fastest in the Star Wars stages.
The situation in the most crowded class – those of the SSV machines, remains under control. First place for the day for Arunas Lekavicus (#412, Can-Am) and second for his fellow countryman from Lithuania Tomas Guzaukas (#430, Can-Am). Third on the finish was Benoit Lepietre (#414, Can Am), but it was enough for the Frenchman to keep the leadership in the general rankings.
Actually, there are not changes in top 3 after Leg 4 of Fenix Rally 2022, as the second place is still owned by Macej Stolarski from Poland (#437, Can Am), and the third is for sits Tomas Mickus (Can-Am, #420) from Lithuania. The two pilots made it on the day in 6th and 5th place respectively.
Moving to the bikes, the fastest rider in the longest leg of Fenix 2022 was Modestas Siliunas (#23, KTM). The Lithuanian rider had also bonus for medical help to another competitor during the race and at the end finished with some 3 minutes advance to Matthew Grid (KTM, #7). Third for the day was another pilot from Lithuania – Justas Grendelis (#20, KTM).
The South African rider Mathew Grid is still leader in the overall standings, with comfortable 20 minutes advance to now second-placed Grendelis. Top 3 is complete by day Mickael Jacobi (#30, Gas Gas), as the Frenchman med it to the 6th place during the day.
In the ATV class, Leg 4 of Fenix Rally was dominated by our “Patronelli brothers” – the French riders Gaetan (#14) and Nicolas Martinez (#16). They crossed the finish with a difference from 6 minutes, followed by Antanas Kanopkinas (#33), some 10 minutes behind the winner.
The third place of the Lithuanian pilot from CFMOTO Racing team was enough to him to dethrone his compatriot and teammate Adomas Gancierus (#2) from the overall leadership. Now, the two pilots are separated by 2 minutes in the rankings and the 3rd place belongs still to Nicolas Martinez, almost 4 minutes behind the leader.
Last but not least, it was very interesting in the truck class. Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507), was the fastest this day. The Dutch driver also had to help his countryman and main rival William Van Groningen (#505) at the end of the first timed section, when the green Iveco felt after descending a dune. Fortunately there were no hurts and damages, and Van Groningen successfully finished the stage on second place. Third for the day was another pilot from Netherlands – Alexander Koot (#506) with DAF.
Despite his misfortune, William Van Groningen is still leader in the overall, with huge almost 5 hours advance of (now second) Van Velsen. Third place in the general rankings belongs to Klaas Steinhoefel (#503) from Germany with MAN KAT.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 5: rest from the sand
The route to Ksar Ghilane offered fast tracks and ranking status quo.
Leg 5 of Fenix Rally 2022 moved the competition to the oasis of Ksar Ghilane, in the Grand South of Tunisia. From Douz, there were planned two special stages, for a total of 262 km, but the situation with the heavy winds in the area changed the menu. So, the competitors drove only the second SS, with start and finish near the oasis. Dirt roads were mainly the playing field, with fast tracks along Parc Jebil to Ksar Ghilane and after that the tricky and narrow gravel tracks in the east part of the “pipe line”, as well as the awesome Canyon in the region of Bir Amir.
Starting with the cars, it was really crazy situation after the finish in the Open class. Rick Van Den Brink (#224, Mitsubishi ASX) was the man who took the stage win, but it was his Dutch compatriot Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218), who regain the leadership in the overall. And it was a matter of seconds!
Hofstra beat Urvo Mannama (#221, Century CR6) with some one minute at the stage and now the two pretenders for the win lay in the main rankings with the unbelievable distance of only 3 seconds between them. So, we can expect that both the Estonian and the Dutch will push to the maximum in the final 2 stages.
And if the two main contenders have a huge advance over the other competitors, it will be a serious battle for the 3rd place in Fenix Cars Open Class. Joel Purga (#237, Mulkland Mos1), is still keeping the “bronze” in the general standings, but Rick Van Den Brink is only 4 minutes behind him. And the things can change before the final day.
It’s totally different situation in the Cars Limited class, where Daniel Vetter (#211, Toyota Land Cruiser) from Switzerland has over 9 hours advance to his closest rival – the German Claus Walden (#220, Toyota Land Cruiser).
Mickael Jacobi (#30, Gas Gas) was the fastest rider in the bike class for the day. The Frenchman finished near 4 minutes in front of Bartolomiej Tabin (#50, KTM), and 6 in front of Justas Grendelis (#20, KTM). The daily win helped Jacobi to climb on the second position in the overall, where still leader is the South African rider Mathew Grid (#7, KTM). The difference between them is 16:22 minutes, and the 3rd placed biker – Grendelis, has a little more than 19 minutes difference from the leader.
In the ATV class, Adomas Gancierus (#2) from Lithuania made it with the best time on the finish. The pilot of CFMOTO Racing team beat his countryman and teammate Antanas Kanopkinas (#33) with tiny 16 seconds, but this not changed the general rankings, where Kanopkinas is leading with near 2 minutes to Gancierus. Third place on the stage, as well as in the overall is for Nicolas Martinez (#16) from France with Yamaha.
Benoit Lepietre (#414, Can Am) continues to secure his leadership in the SSV rankings with a stage victory in the 5th day of Fenix Rally 2022. The Frenchman made 1:46 min. advance to Tomas Mickus (Can-Am, #420) and some more 15 seconds to the third for the day – Nerijus Murauskas (#420, Can-Am). Now Benoit lays 11 minutes ahead of the new second-placed in the overall – the Lithuanian Mickus. Top 3 in the general is for Macej Stolarski from Poland (#437, Can Am), who finished 6th for the day.
Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507) claimed his second consecutive stage win in the truck class. However, the Dutchman is far away behind his compatriot William Van Groningen (Iveco, #505), who is leading the competition with 4 and a half hours advance to Van Velsen. Third in the ranking is still Klaas Steinhoefel (#503) from Germany with MAN KAT.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 6: the penultimate battle
New daily winners, but almost no changes.
Leg 6 of Fenix Rally 2022 offered another slight modification of the route, with a 164 km special stage from Douz to Ksar Ghilane, full of dunes. Actually, totally dominated by dunes in every form and size. This penultimate day was very important for many pretenders for the title of the desert marathon.
Urvo Mannama (#221, Century CR6) has his best day in the rally, claiming another stage victory. But more important, the Estonian pilot regained the leadership in the general standings, with a solid distance of almost 20 minutes compared to his main rival Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218). The Dutchman finished the stage on 3rd place, and was overpassed by Joel Purga (#237, Mulkland Mos1), who is still sit on the 3rd place in the overall.
No changes in the Cars Limited class, where Daniel Vetter (#211, Toyota Land Cruiser) took another daily victory and has huge advance to the rest of the competitors.
Arto Kallioinen (FIN, KTM) was the fastest biker for the day, but in the overall position it’s Mathew Grid (#7, KTM) who is still in command, although his distance from Mickael Jacobi (#30, Gas Gas) was shortened to 12.24 min.
In the ATV class, Gaetan Martinez (#14, Can-Am) was with the best time on the finish in Ksar, but it is Antanas Kanopkinas (#33) who is ruler of the overall, with tight 3:39 min. advance to his teammate from CFMOTO Racing Adomas Gancierus (#2).
Tomas Guzauskas (#430, Can-Am) did it with the best time for the day in the SSV class. But Benoit Lepietre (#414, Can Am) did not give up in the general standings. The Frenchman has almost 5 minutes advantage to Macej Stolarski (#437, Can Am), and there is intrigue for the last leg of Fenix Rally 2022.
In the truck class, Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507) claimed his third consecutive stage win. But this cannot help the Dutchman, as he is far away behind his compatriot William Van Groningen (Iveco, #505), who is leading the competition.
Fenix Rally 2022, Leg 7: last dance with the Desert
All the crowned winners of the race.
The final stage of Fenix Rally 2022 was not as easy and short as everyone expected after this really heavy week, but, following the big dunes from the previous day, it was like a park walk for some competitors. Some 140 kilometers from Douz to Ksar Ghilane and back, with very long and fast tracks and many sandy sections between them were in the menu. And then, after almost 2200 km special stages and 7 days, the new crowned winners of Fenix Rally are known.
Mathew Grid (#7, KTM) made it for the title of Fenix’22, after taking on command in the midway of the rally. The South African pilot arrived in Douz with only one minute and 8 seconds difference from Jacobi Mickael (#30, Gas Gas). The Frenchman at his turn, made it with 11 minutes difference from the placed on the 3rd place in the overall – Bartolomiej Tabin from Poland (#50, KTM), who attacked in the very last stages to be on the podium.
No surprises in the ATV class, where the pilots of CFMOTO Racing team claimed a double victory after leading the rally in the last days. First place for Antanas Kanopkinas (#33), who had 2:38 min. advantage to his compatriot from Lithuania Adomas Gancierus (#2). Well-deserved entrance in the top 3 for the Frenchman Nicolas Martinez (#3, Yamaha), who crossed the finish line 10 minutes behind the winner.
Benoit Lepietre (#414) claimed his victory in Fenix Rally 2022, after leading the classification of the most crowded class of the SSVs from the 5th day till the end. Second place for Tomas Mickus (#420) for Lithuania and third for the Polish pilot Maciej Stolarski (#437). Needless to say, Can-Am is the dominant brand in the lightweight class.
Moving to the Cars Open – the “royal” class of the Fenix Rally 2022, Urvo Mannama managed to keep his leadership after the penultimate day and finish the race with another stage victory. The Estonian succeed to keep distance from his main rival Rients Hofstra (Nissan Navara Proto, #218), and moreover - Dutchman had no chance to clear the time difference, losing more than 30 minutes just in the last two days. And if the leading duo has a big distance from the other competitors, it was a big fight for the 3rd place in the class, where Joel Purga (#237, Mulkland Mos1) managed to claim “the bronze medal” for Estonia.
In the Cars Limited, or “the Toyota” class, it was a no surprise victory for Daniel Vetter from Switzerland (#211) who had hours and hours advance to Claus Walden (#220) and Gilles Girouse.
Finally, as we expected days ago, William Van Groningen (Iveco, #505) is the big winner in the truck class, despite the last stage victories of Aad Van Velsen (Scania, #507), who finished Fenix Rally on the second place. Top 3 completed Klaas Steinhoefel (Man Kat, #503), with a huge time difference from the winner.
The RBI Sport upcoming events
As Fenix Rally 2022 just finished, the race director Alex Kovatchev start to building the plans for the next edition of the desert adventure in 2023. But, before that, the head of RBI Sport is involved for the upcoming Breslau Poland rally, which will take place in the well-known, starting in 26th of June. And after that, we expect the return of Balkan Offroad Rallye, which will take place in Romania, in the last week of September.
About the organizer RBI Sport
RBI Sport is a company highly specialized in the field of the motorsports that provides numerous services for event organizers. The main goals that are working principles of the team include top safety, precise detailed touch, and customer service and finally yet importantly full dedication towards problem solving.
RBI Sport is on the market for consulting, rally and cross-country rally services for over 10 years and has already proven the top quality of work in Europe and Africa. Numerous references for our work including such as the FIA World Rally Championship and FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rally / Baja are a sign of high level of professionalism and trustfulness.
RBI Sport is a leader in providing services for time keeping, tracking and rally control, event management and road book creation. The specialized equipment manufactured under the Geotraq trade mark is a true symbol of safety, fairness, reliability and trust. Since 2018, RBI Sport has expanded the scope of services including consulting and development of ASNs, creation of a company hub in Kenya and providing direct satellite tracking and data communication options for motorsport events.
For more information: