Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Round 3 - Bahrain Rally

Round 3 - Bahrain Rally

            We had increasing pressure from Gulf Air to put an Arab National in the car as our driver, so a young Qatari driver, Abbas Moussawi was recommended by the CEO of Gulf Air, Ali Al Malki.  After we met Abbas and interviewed him, Rob McEwen, who was a decent driver in his own right and had done quite a bit of motor sport and rallying himself, went out with Abbas in the 911 SC RS and he reported back that Abbas seemed capable and certainly very quick.     
As the Bahrain Rally was our home event, we tried to put on a good show and Chris Walles and Gordon Turley prepared and practiced sufficiently and they confident of a good result.
We also offered and provided as much support as we could to Dave Richards and Prodrive as they too were running a Porsche 911 SC RS, which we needed to assist as much as possible as the Porsche Importer. The fact that we were competing together in different Porsche cars was all the better for us selling and marketing the Porsche brand in the region.
            Across the Middle East Championship, the Bahrain event had a reputation as a car breaker unless you were careful. We did quite a lot of testing and practice and I even had a few drives in the rally car myself to try it out first hand.
Gulf Air was pushing us so we had to make a decision. We decided it was best for Chris Walles and Gordon Turley to drive and co-drive for us in the Bahrain rally and after that event the plan was for Abbas to take over. I explained this to Ali Al Malki, CEO of Gulf Air who was delighted that Abbas would be our driver for the rest of the season.
Chris and Gordon put on a good show and finished the Bahrain rally down the order, but to be honest that did not matter and everyone was happy just to finish this event with the car in one piece!
A few days after the rally, I had to break the news to Chris that he was no longer our driver. Chris was very upset indeed when we dropped him, but I explained we had to consider the wishes of our sponsor who were waving their chequebook with additional financial help to meet the spiralling costs. Chris had not put any money into the enterprise himself. We did not have contracts or anything like that, as effectively the crew were amateurs and no one was employed as driver and co-driver. Unfortunately Chris took this news very hard and went around telling everyone that I had ruined his rallying career, so I had to explain to anyone who asked, that we had to live in the real world and accede to our sponsor’s request.
Abbas flew into Bahrain regularly and drove the car on a number of tests after the Bahrain rally. He was very fast in our Porsche 911SC RS, and he had easily beat Saeed Al Hajri known stage times. He offered a lot of promise but he lacked real experience, which was always going to be a problem for us, as we did not have the time or resources to develop his career. However, Gulf Air were now very happy indeed and there seemed to be more interest from them in the team. It was more important for them to have an Arab driver in the car then getting top placed results. We took Abbas on for the rest of the season and in return, Gulf Air increased the supply of money and assistance.
I remember talking to Dave Richards about developing young drivers and he informed me they had invested many thousands of pounds in Saeed Al Hajri in international personal and driver development, something we could not contemplate for Abbas.

Round 3 - Bahrain 29/30 May
Driver/Co Driver
Brookes / Broad
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
2h 09m 37s
Al Hajri / Spiller
Porsche 911 SC RS
2h 11m 03s
Saleh / Samia
Toyota Celica
2h 30m 17s

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