Saeed Thani Rally Al Khaleej preview

THANI AIMS FOR FLYING START IN THUNDERBIRD Abu Dhabi challenger sets sights on first-time victory as Rally Al Khaleej gets capital launch Dubai, UAE, 15 March, 2005: Abu Dhabi classic car enthusiast Saeed Thani is aiming for a...

THANI AIMS FOR FLYING START IN THUNDERBIRD

Abu Dhabi challenger sets sights on first-time victory as Rally Al Khaleej gets capital launch

Dubai, UAE, 15 March, 2005: Abu Dhabi classic car enthusiast Saeed Thani is aiming for a first-time victory in the Rally Al Khaleej when the event gets under way from Abu Dhabi in the morning (Wednesday).

Among the vintage models from yesteryear lined up for the new 1,200-km event, Thani's 1960 Ford Thunderbird has emerged as one of the pre-rally favourites.

It is part of an impressive private collection of classic cars he has assembled in recent years, and Thani hopes the Thunderbird will give him a flying start in his first competitive event.

"I drive the cars for pleasure, and have taken them to exhibitions in the past, but this will be my first rally," he said. "The Thunderbird is capable of reaching 203 kph and I think I can win, but it will not be easy."

Taking place under the patronage of Lt-General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the

UAE's Minister of Interior, the Rally Al Khaleej is organised by Abu Dhabi-based Arger Event and Conference Management and sponsored by Siemens, and by Etihad Airways. the official carrier.

The rally gets under way at 9.30am tomorrow (Wednesday) morning from the Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers in Abu Dhabi, with the first of the event's special stages taking the cars on a 320-km journey to Liwa.

While his Thunderbird was being fine tuned for the start, Thani used Monday's official press conference for the event to show off another of his classic vehicles, a 1930 Ford Model A which he bought in the US in 1999 and spent two years restoring to perfect condition.

"I spent hours every day fixing it," he said. "When I was young I couldn't afford to buy cars like this but now I can and I do it for fun."

Thani, who will be accompanied by his nine-year-old son Thani Saeed Thani during the 11-day rally, also owns a 1959 and 1965 model Mercedes 220S, a 1978 shortwheel base Land Rover and a 1979 Brazilian-made fibreglass Volkswagen.

His rivals include Hanns Werner Wirth and co-driver Dr Ursula Schmitt in a 1955 Jaguar XK 140 which has scored rally victories in Morocco, Hungary and Switzerland, and fellow-Germans Willi and Christina Mayer in a 1973 BMW Coupe 3.0 CS

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