I continued to talk to potential sponsors and it was clear to me that Gulf Air was an ideal partner. They operated in all the countries the rally championship was run and we needed to get the car and all of our equipment moved around so they could fly it. I had a number of further meetings with them and the more we talked the more it seemed a good fit.
Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa suggested he make an appointment for us both with Gulf Air’s CEO, so we could present the idea to him personally. I agreed with this and thanked him for his support and so we both went and saw Ali Al Malki the CEO a few days later. He was receptive to our ideas and he commented that Saeed Al Hajri was very well known and could we not get him to drive the car for us? I stated this was not possible as Saeed was under contract to Rothmans Opel rally team. Ali was a Qatari himself so Saeed had immediately sprung to his mind. Ali Al Malki wanted an Arab driver in the car but I told him no one was available who was of any note and that we had lined up a Gulf Air engineer, Chris Wallace, which he accepted.
We left it that we would run the first half of the season with Chris Wallace as our driver and if we could get a good local Arab driver, we would certainly look at using him. Word filtered down within Gulf Air and Mike Simon, their advertising manager called me and indicated that we could make a formal sponsorship presentation to him and his PR colleagues at Gulf Air. Mike was suddenly a lot more positive as word had come down from on high! I told him I would need to prepare for this and I would get back to him with a date and time.
I then called a quick meeting between the Partners and told them of developments and we all agreed we would need to make a really good proposal to Gulf Air as we had only one shot at this. Bob suggested we put together a video of the proposal, to which we all agreed was a very good idea. We put it to our friend and neighbour, Neil Stafford, who worked for Eagle Recording Studios, who were part of the Ashraf Empire. Neil told us he could put something together for us so we jointly sketched out the basis of our promotional video he would make. I then gave copies of all our Porsche videos to Neil so he could copy these and edit out clips he thought would help. He then scripted what he needed to film.
Eventually after a lot of hard work we had our promotional video ready we set a date to meet with Gulf Air. We arranged a room at the Gulf Hotel and also put on a buffet lunch for everyone after we had made our presentation. The video did the trick and we had an offer to cover around 60% of the season’s costs, which included buying the 911 SC RS, so we agreed to accept this and make Gulf Air the primary sponsor.
It was always in my mind that this car would be a Porsche collector’s car so selling it on afterwards would allow us to recoup our investment and possible make a profit on the project.
We then discussed other funding and sponsorship offers to top the package up. Gulf Air them confirmed everything in writing and then a bombshell hit us, as they wanted to pay 50% in cash and the balance 50% in contra made up of tickets and airfreight. At first sight this looked totally unworkable, however, having thought it through, we felt we could sell on tickets to our friends to turn the contra arrangement into discounted hard cash. Irene our Scots secretary volunteered to ring around and she was confident that we could realise cash from selling discounted air tickets to people we knew.
Having accepted Gulf Air’s offer in writing, we placed the order for the Porsche 911 SC RS with Jürgen Barth and sent him the required DM 50,000 deposit. He came back and confirmed our order number and he gave us chassis number WPOZZZ91ES110019, number 19 of the 20 cars being produced.
We everyone’s hard work, we sold all the tickets over the space of a few months and raised the money in cash to pay Porsche for the car.