|Sheikh Hassan And Steve Curtis Finish Fourth In Italian Grand Prix On Lake Como|
|Saturday, 15 October 2011 23:39|
CERNOBBIO (Italy): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and British throttleman Steve Curtis MBE have it all to do on Sunday if they are to win the 2011 Class 1 European Powerboat Championship.
The Spirit of Qatar 96 crew finished fourth in Saturday’s race on Lake Como, behind the victorious Victory 3 crew of Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi, their second-placed Spirit of Qatar 95 team-mates Ali Al-Neama and Matteo Nicolini and the Team Abu Dhabi duo of Ahmed Al-Hameli and Majed Al-Mansoori.
The outcome means that Sheikh Hassan heads into Sunday’s second race trailing the Victory 3 crew by an unofficial six points in the championship standings, with 20 available to the winner of the second race, 15 for second, 12 for third, and nine for fourth, etc.
An excellent second place for Doha-based Al-Neama and throttleman Nicolini has also kick-started their European title challenge and the Qatar crew trail Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis by an unofficial two points prior to the second race of the weekend in Italy.
Italian Grand Prix – race 1
The two Spirit of Qatar boats started the 12-lap, eight-boat race from second and fifth places and maintained their positions through lap one, with Al-Neama and Nicolini trailing Victory 3 by just 3.76s heading into lap two. Sheikh Hassan was involved in a tight tussle for the top three and was only running 9.92s heading the leading UAE boat.
But Victory 3 opened up a gap of 11.68s to Spirit of Qatar 95 through lap two, as Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis climbed to fourth at the expense of Poliform 74, the crew of which opted for the long lap strategy and were also penalised with a penalty lap before stopping. Victory 3 extended its lead to 14.77s through lap three, as Spirit of Qatar 95 and 96 maintained second and fourth places.
The gap at the front between Victory 3 and Spirit of Qatar 95 rose to 19.55s through lap four, but Sheikh Hassan began to close on Team Abu Dhabi and reduced the margin to just 4.30s. Spirit of Qatar 96 took the long lap on the fifth tour, where the Victory 3 crew extended their overall lead to 21.45s.
The leading three boats all opted to take their long lap on lap six and Victory 3 duly benefited with an overall lead over Spirit of Qatar 95 of 29.48s, with Team Abu Dhabi running in third, 3.44s in front of Sheikh Hassan. Al-Neama and Nicolini clawed a fraction of a second back on Victory 3 through lap seven, but Team Abu Dhabi managed to edge 5.33s in front of Spirit of Qatar 96.
Victory 3 pulled further clear of the field through lap eight, as Spirit of Qatar 96 began to slow and slipped 20 seconds behind Team Abu Dhabi’s Victory-built boat. There was no respite on lap nine and the Victory 3 boat stormed through with three laps remaining, 43.83s in front of Spirit of Qatar 95.
There was no way back for the two Qatar boats on the remaining three laps and Spirit of Qatar 95 and 96 finished the race in second and fourth places to set up a fascinating second race showdown for the European title on Sunday.
Edox Pole Position
Spirit of Qatar 95 and 96 qualified in second and fifth positions for the Grand Prix, with Al-Neama’s and Nicolini’s fifth lap of 2m 53.76s sufficient to slot them into second place behind Victory 3.
Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis used their third lap of 2m 55.31s as their lap to qualify in fifth place behind Victory 3, Spirit of Qatar 95, Team Abu Dhabi and Guido Cappellini and Giampaolo Montavoci in Poliform. But Sheikh Hassan admitted that the team had changed the set-up before the session began and then an engine let go during qualifying.
“We decided to change the set-up at the last minute and then we had an engine let go on us, which was a real slap in the face,” admitted Sheikh Hassan, president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF). “It had given a little trouble on Friday as well but, putting a positive slant on it, I would rather have the issues in qualifying than see it go in the race.
“Thankfully, we had plenty of time between the qualifying and the race to change it. Ali and Matteo did well nevertheless and we still had everything to play for during the race.”
Spirit of Qatar 95 now trails Victory 3 by 13 points heading into the final round of the Class 1 Edox Pole Position Championship in Dubai in December.
Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis set the fourth quickest time in Friday lunchtime’s first official practice session with a second lap of 2m 57.00s. Al-Neama and Nicolini ran for six laps in the first official practice and posted a quickest tour of 2m 53.81s to sit behind Victory 3 in second position.
A third and final practice session is on the agenda for Sunday morning and the second of the weekend’s races fires into life at the same time (15.30hrs Doha time) on Sunday afternoon.
Italian Grand Prix – race 1 results
1. Arif Saif Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Victory 3 34m 05.39s
2. Ali Al-Neama (QAT)/Matteo Nicolini (ITA) Spirit of Qatar 95 @ 41.00s
3. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE)/Majed Al-Mansoori (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 5 @ 51.25s
4. Hassan Al-Thani (QAT)/Steve Curtis (GBR) Spirit of Qatar 96 @ 1m 07.87s
5. Frank Hemelaer (BEL)/Luca Nicolini (ITA) FA.RO.ACCIAI 23 1 lap behind
6. Ugur Isik (TUR)/Christian Zaborowski (NOR) Relekta 91 1 lap behind
Bjorge Jacobsen(NOR)/Kurt Olsen (NOR) Welmax 90 DNF
Guido Cappellini (ITA)/Giampaolo Montavoci (ITA) Poliform 74 DNF
UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship – latest standings (unofficial):
1. Victory 3 79 pts
2. Spirit of Qatar 96 63 pts
3. Spirit of Qatar 95 50 pts
4. Team Abu Dhabi 5 34 pts, etc
UIM Class 1 European Powerboat Championship – after race 2 of 3 (unofficial):
1. Victory 3 35 pts
2. Spirit of Qatar 96 29 pts
3. Spirit of Qatar 95 27 pts
4. Team Abu Dhabi 12 pts, etc
Edox Pole Position Championship – after round three:
1. Victory 3 55 pts
2. Spirit of Qatar 95 42 pts
3. Team Abu Dhabi 5 39 pts
4. Spirit of Qatar 96 23 pts
5. Fendi Racing 10 18 pts
6. Welmax 90 13 pts, etc
For further information:
www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).