RUGBY LEGEND TIM HORAN SWAPS BOOTS FOR FOUR WHEELS WITH BP FORD ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY TEAM Former Australian captain gears up for Saturday's Tri-Nations by riding 'shotgun' at Repco Rally Australia Gold Coast, Australia, 3rd September 2009:...
RUGBY LEGEND TIM HORAN SWAPS BOOTS FOR FOUR WHEELS WITH BP FORD ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY TEAM
Former Australian captain gears up for Saturday's Tri-Nations by riding 'shotgun' at Repco Rally Australia
Gold Coast, Australia, 3rd September 2009: Australian rugby legend Tim Horan got to grips with the World Rally Championship (WRC) today as he took the co-driver's seat in Abu Dhabi's Khaled Al Qassimi's BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Ford Focus. Al Qassimi took Horan for the ride of his life on a couple of laps of the opening 'Shakedown' stage of the Repco Rally Australia in Murwillumbah on the Gold Coast. At speeds topping over 180kph, Horan was spun around the dusty gravel tracks by the Emirati rally ace, in what was a high-speed precursor to this weekend's Tri-Nations match between the Wallabies and South Africa up the coast in Brisbane.
Horan's Repco Rally Australia 'Shakedown' gig drew in Australian fans, eager to see the rugby icon experience the high octane thrills. With 80 caps for his country, including being the 1999 Rugby World Cup 'player of the tournament', Horan is accustomed to big occasions, but he conceded that being Al Qassimi's passenger is not for the feint hearted: "It was an amazing experience to be in the car alongside Khaled, you realise how good he is and you place your trust in his ability and just enjoy the experience."
Before taking to the co-driver's seat, Horan got some last minute tips from Al Qassimi's co-driver Michael Orr: "Michael took me through his role as a co-driver, letting me know exactly what to expect from the lower seat position and how it would feel during the high speed testing session. It was fantastic to get an insight from him into the importance of his role and how vital a co-driver's pace notes are during a rally, it's all about team work", commented Horan.
Al Qassimi was impressed with Horan's calmness under pressure: "It was great to have Tim in the passenger seat, to have one of the greatest Australian rugby players in the car with me and to personally give him a completely different sporting experience was a thrill for me as well".
This weekend sees two of the biggest events on the Gold Coast sporting calendar, with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team going for their fifth consecutive win at Repco Rally Australia in Kingscliff (4th -6th September), while on Saturday Australia takes on South Africa in the Tri-Nations rugby at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.
Repco Rally Australia, across 340 competitive kilometres of the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, marks the tenth of 12 WRC rounds. With only a few points dividing the top drivers and teams, there is a huge pressure and apprehension surrounding the BP Ford Abu Dhabi drivers as they continue to push for victory. BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen leads the drivers' Championship by three points, ahead of Citroen's Sebastian Loeb while Al Qassimi is looking for more Championship points to move him up the classifications.
"With Australia now ranking amongst Abu Dhabi's key source tourism markets where we and our stakeholder partner Etihad Airways, which has a substantial network to the country, have undertaken intensive trade and consumer activity, we anticipate strong support for the team and Khaled," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which partners the BP Ford Team Abu Dhabi initiative. "Awareness of Abu Dhabi within Australia is expanding and this event helps us build on the growing momentum."