|Sheikh Hassan And Steve Curtis Seal Historic Pearl Qatar Grand Prix Win In Spirit Of Qatar 96|
|Thursday, 15 March 2012 21:16|
DOHA (QATAR): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani began Class One racing in 2003 and finally laid to rest his Qatar Grand Prix jinx with a stunning victory alongside Steve Curtis in race one of the 2012 Pearl Qatar Grand Prix on Thursday.
The Spirit of Qatar 96 crew controlled a difficult race in a masterly fashion to reach the chequered flag 13.77 seconds clear of the second-placed Team Abu Dhabi crew of Rashid Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said a delighted Sheikh Hassan. “At the end of the gate they (Victory) tried to do an illegal move on us and I was surprised to see immediate penalties imposed on them. Then we were in front. This is the first win on the Pearl, the first win of the season - fantastic. Since Dubai, and the issue with the steering, all through the winter testing, it’s great to have a day like this.
“I didn’t think about anything going wrong towards the end. The second we crossed the finish line, I heard the screaming on the intercom from Gro (Helgesen) and the team. They did a really good job and this one is for them.”
Qatar’s Ali Al-Neama and Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini were overtaken by Team Abu Dhabi shortly after the start but held third position to the finish in Spirit of Qatar 95, once Victory 3’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Mohammed Al-Marri had been penalised on four occasions with penalty laps and eventually finished in fourth place.
The two-race Pearl Qatar Grand Prix is being organised by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF), which is hosting a round of the UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship for the first time since 2009.
Pearl Qatar Grand Prix – race one
There was a slight delay before the start of race one to enable officials to shorten the course slightly on safety grounds. The long course was reduced from 8.44Nm to 6.63Nm and the first of the two races was rescheduled to run over one start lap and eight tours of the revised course in a total race distance of 56.28Nm.
Sheikh Hassan admitted that several components had been changed on 96 after the Pole Position and he was confident of a good start to the year, as six boats lined up to get the new racing season underway.
Victory 3 made the running and had edged into a 7.98s advantage after the start lap and first of the eight race laps, but they had made a dubious move across the racing line. Spirit of Qatar 96 and 95 slotted into second and third, but Victory 3 were awarded a penalty lap soon afterwards. Both Fendi Racing and Relekta stopped after one lap, leaving four Middle Eastern boats out on the course.
Team Abu Dhabi managed to pass Spirit of Qatar 95 on lap three but Spirit of Qatar 96 hit the front on the fourth tour of the course when Victory 3 took a penalty lap and slipped to fourth. Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis headed into lap five with a 10.42s lead over Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori. But Victory 3 were penalised again for missing a buoy, as Sheikh Hassan closed in on the dream of winning his home Grand Prix for the first time and extended his lead to 14.25s.
Spirit of Qatar 96 began to pull away as Sheikh Hassan and Curtis began to clock off the nautical miles to the finish. Victory 3, incredibly, were docked a third and fourth penalty lap for missing buoys, as Sheikh Hassan extended his lead to 19.64s over Team Abu Dhabi.
The Qatar Team boat held on to reach the chequered flag 13.77s clear of Team Abu Dhabi to cap a memorable day for the host team.
Official practice 2
The Spirit of Qatar team mechanics had worked late into Wednesday evening to ensure that 96 was fighting fit for the first of the two Qatar races. Not only had an engine water hose worked loose in the Edox Pole Position, but team technicians also noticed a problem with an oil pump. “It was quite a late night,” admitted team spokeswoman Gro Helgesen.
The morning’s second practice session was red-flagged when Welmax Offshore flipped over on the course, after Team Abu Dhabi, Spirit of Qatar 95 and a rebuilt Fendi Racing had posted a lap apiece. Neither Paul Gaiser nor Bjorge Jacobsen were injured in the incident. Spirit of Qatar had recorded the second quickest lap of 5m 00.36s when the incident occurred.
Spirit of Qatar 96 set the quickest time when the session was resumed. Sheikh Hassan ran for two laps and posted a quickest tour of 4m 53.07s, but only seven of the nine boats took to the water.
Massimo Roggiero and Pal-Virik Nilsen were forced to abandon their number 23 Fa.Ro.ACCIAI boat when flames took hold from an engine and they were forced to jump into the water. “Massimo said I smell smoke,” said Nilsen. “I looked in his mirror and saw flames coming from the hatch. I went for the fire extinguisher but there was nothing we could do. We had over 300 litres of fuel on board, so we both leapt fore the safety of the water. The boat is a real mess.”
The Victory 3 crew were given special dispensation to go out on to the course to test after an engine-related issue prevented them taking part in the disjointed practice session. “It was a dramatic morning,” said Sheikh Hassan. “One barrel roll, one caught fire and three boats with problems. So we go from nine to eight to seven boats.” When Poliform also missed the race, the number was down to six.
2012 Pearl Qatar Grand Prix – results
1. Hassan Al-Thani (QAT)/Steve Curtis (GBR) Spirit of Qatar 96 31m 53.37s
2. Rashed Al-Tayer (UAE)/Majed Al-Mansoori (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 5 @ 13.77s
3. Ali Al-Neama (QAT)/Matteo Nicolini (ITA) Spirit of Qatar 95 @ 39.25s
4. Arif Saif Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Mohammed Al-Marri (UAE) Victory 3 @ 1m 48.95s
Ugur Isik (TUR)/Christian Zaborowski (NOR) Relekta 91 DNF
Luca Formilli-Fendi (ITA)/Giovanni Carpitella (ITA) Luca Fendi Racing 10 DNF
Guido Cappellini (ITA)/Gian Maria Gabbiani (ITA) Poliform 74 DNS
2012 UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship – after round one
1. Hassan Al-Thani (QAT)/Steve Curtis (GBR) Spirit of Qatar 96 20 pts
2. Rashed Al-Tayer (UAE)/Majed Al-Mansoori (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 5 15 pts
3. Ali Al-Neama (QAT)/Matteo Nicolini (ITA) Spirit of Qatar 95 12 pts
4. Arif Saif Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Mohammed Al-Marri (UAE) Victory 3 9 pts
2012 Pearl Qatar Grand Prix – timetable of events
Friday, March 16th
10.00-11.00 Official practice
13.00-17.00 Boats in Pearl Marina
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