C1 New Spirit of Qatar Team sets second and third times in opening practice in Doha

Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix, round 1 - April 23rd-25th, 2009

For immediate release
Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


·Sheikh Hassan sets second fastest time in Spirit of Qatar 96
·All systems go for 2009 Class 1 race series in Doha this weekend
·Impressive debut for Fazza boat and UAE rookie Al-Mehairi

DOHA (Qatar): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani chose the start of the Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix weekend in Doha Bay to announce the new Spirit of Qatar name for the Qatar Marine Sports Federation's team entry in the 2009 Class 1 World Powerboat Championship.

The renamed Spirit of Qatar team will use both the 95 and 96 race hulls in this weekend's opening round of the prestigious championship. Sheikh Hassan and Abdullah Al-Sulaiti teamed up with their respective throttlemen Steve Curtis and Matteo Nicolini to set the second and third fastest times in Thursday's first two-hour practice session of the new season.

"It's something new that we wanted to introduce," said Sheikh Hassan. "Last year was one of the lowest seasons for us, but I wanted to show that our spirit is high and we have the Spirit of Qatar. I guess the name Spirit has always been associated with a winning champion."

"The disappointment we felt here last year has gone. It's forgotten. I don't mind what goes on here. We went easy today, but will try 110% for Pole Position and for the race on Saturday. There was a slight breeze today, but April has always been a little unpredictable. The wind direction changes here hour-by-hour. I hope that more wind blows in on Friday and Saturday."

The Fazza pairing of Arif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi were the first crew on to the water at the start of the new season and eventually posted a lap of 2m 47.01s in the first half of the session. Al-Sulaiti and Nicolini edged inside with a tour of 2m 46.67s, before pitting to make changes for the second hour of the practice stint. Sheikh Hassan recorded a lap of 2m 54.67s, although the accuracy of the actual time was disputed by team personnel.

Only six of the 10 boats took to the water during the first hour, but the action resumed with Fazza taking the initiative with a lap of 2m 44.17s, as both Qatar boats had the propellers replaced for a second run on the course. Victory 1 rookie Mohammad Al-Mehairi improved as the session progressed to eventually record the fourth fastest time with Jean-Marc Sanchez in Victory 1, but both Qatar boats had the last word.

Al-Sulaiti posted a lap of 2m 44.50s, but the time was pipped in the closing minutes by Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis with a 2m 44.32s. "We actually pushed quite hard and were aggressive in the corners," admitted Al-Sulaiti. "But we will let Steve and Hassan have the edge today…"

"We ran for a few laps on Wednesday afternoon to test 95 in calm conditions with the new Sterling engines for the first time," admitted Al-Sulaiti. "It was an opportunity for us to run out the new exhaust system and try the Five-Axis propellers before the practice session. The boat does feel a little different, but I have a good feeling about the weekend.

"I enjoyed the practice session today. It was another opportunity to get to know the boat and the feel for the pace we will need to be competitive. We were also able to test out the new exhaust system again and make sure that a minor overheating problem had been repaired after a slight modification to he system."

Tomorrow (Friday) is the all-important first Edox Pole Position of the new season. The Spirit of Qatar team will be permitted a 90-minute practice session from 10.30hrs, before the qualifying session gets underway at 3pm in Doha Bay. Spectators are welcome and there is a grandstand in place near the race village with an excellent view of the action.

2009 Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix - first official practice times - Thursday (unofficial):
1. Arif Al-Zafeen(UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Fazza 3     2m 44.17s  
2. Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani (QA)/Steve Curtis (GB) Spirit of Qatar 96  2m 44.32s 
3. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Matteo Nicolini (I) Spirit of Qatar 95    2m 44.50s  
4. Mohammad Al-Mehairi (UAE)/Jean-Marc Sanchez (F) Victory 1    2m 47.54s
5. Christian Zaborowski (N)/Jorn Tandberg (N) Welmax 90    2m 48.59s 
6. Pal-Virik Nilsen (N)/Tom Barry-Cotter (AUS)/ Maritimo 11    2m 50.70s
7. Christian Rivolta (I)/Giovanni Carpitella (I) Aurantium 10    2m 53.96s
8. Francesco Pansini (I)/Giampaolo Montevoci (I) Foresti & Suardi/Roscioli  8  3m 05.56s
Giorgio Manuzzi (RSM)/Peter McGrath (NZ) Maritimo 12    DNS
Riccardo Calugi (I)/Nicola Giorgi (I)/ Giorgiooffshore 18    DNS

Timetable of events for 2009 Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix

Friday, April 24th - Doha Bay
10.30 hrs - 12.00hrs  2nd free practice on race course
15.00 hrs - 16.00 hrs Edox Pole Position, followed by podium presentation
20.00 hrs  Opening ceremony and official dinner - Sheraton Hotel


For further information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).




Date issued: 23/04/2009

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