C1 Sheikh Hassan starts new Class 1 season with second place in Doha

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

For immediate release
Saturday, April 25th, 2009


·Opening race victory in Doha for the UAE's Fazza 3 crew
·Al-Sulaiti and Nicolini lead before retiring with engine problems

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar's Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini comfortably led for the first eight laps of the Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix before sustaining cruel right-hand engine problems in Doha Bay on Saturday afternoon. 

Their demise handed the lead and the eventual race win to Arif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi in Fazza 3, with His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis MBE finishing second overall in Spirit of Qatar 96. Second place marked Sheikh Hassan's 20th podium finish since he burst on to the Class 1 racing scene in 2003.

"We needed a good start today," said Sheikh Hassan. "I was confident that we had selected the right set-up. The result gives me a really good feeling for Spain and I am obviously pleased to get the 15 points. It's very disappointing for Qatar 95, but Abdullah and Matteo have a very fast boat and we will need to take a careful look now to see what went wrong."

"It would have been nice to win, but we have made a much better start (to the season) than we did last year," admitted Curtis. "The guys in the team have worked incredibly hard to get us on to the podium. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, I think we are going to be in a great position to challenge for the title."

Al-Sulaiti was obviously disappointed with the outcome, but drew positives from the weekend's race. "I guess we had a very good start and were extending our lead. But it came down to reliability again. We didn't bother to look when we knew the engine had stopped. We are obviously pleased that 96 finished second and we have a good feeling for the year. We were neck and neck from the start with Fazza, even with our extra weight, and there was no way they could catch us after that."

"It was a great start yesterday with Pole Position, but race day is totally different," added a disappointed Nicolini. "Like always, the start was so important. We were probably carrying around 150kg more fuel than the Victory boats. This is what is needed with the fuel consumption of the V8 engines. The disadvantage levels itself out during the race, but it is a big handicap heading off the start and into the first corner where the margin is so small. I think 50% of the race is decided over who can hold the lead into the first turn."

Sheikh Hassan began his 46th Class 1 race from third on the front row, with Fazza sandwiched between 96 and the Pole-winning Spirit of Qatar 95. One short outgoing lap, 18 tours of the normal course and two compulsory long laps lay ahead in a total race distance of 96.45Nm.

A good start was imperative for the Spirit of Qatar Team in punishing spring temperatures and a slight breeze in Doha Bay. Nicolini was true to his word and 95 managed to stay in front through the opening turn and had edged into a six-second lead by the end of the first lap. The Pole front-runners held station through the first three laps, with Al-Sulaiti extending 95's lead to 10.5 seconds through three circuits. Fazza held second and began to edge away from Sheikh Hassan's third-placed Qatar 96.

Welmax had stopped on the second lap with mechanical problems and Foresti & Suardi was already a lap down by the time the leading quartet took the first of their long laps.

Al-Sulaiti had increased Qatar 95's advantage to 15.19s after lap seven, but Sheikh Hassan began to fall adrift of second-placed Fazza, as Victory 1, Aurantium and Giorgioffshore filled the minor places. Maritimo 11 stopped on the fourth lap.

The leading margin was up to 32.54s through the eighth lap and Al-Sulaiti was looking good for a second GP win in Qatar. Sheikh Hassan opted to take his second long lap on the eighth tour and was followed on to the longer course by Fazza. The UAE crew opted for a long run on the ninth lap, but Al-Sulaiti's run came to an end as the race neared the halfway point. Right-hand engine problems ended the winning dream and the UAE boat inherited the overall lead.

Both leading boats now faced a 10-lap dogfight to the finish, with Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis needing to claw back a deficit of 17.87s. Only six boats remained in the race at the halfway point and Al-Zafeen and Bin Hendi found themselves in a 21-second lead after 10 laps, with Qatar 96 and Victory 1 filling the podium places. Aurantium, Giorgioffshore and Foresti & Suardi completed the list of runners, with Aurantium's Giovanni Carpitella hoping to build upon his recent X-Cat series title.

Sheikh Hassan had no answer to Fazza in the power stakes and the lead had grown to 27.19s through lap 11 and to 35 seconds after lap 12. The Qatar 96 crew noticeably eased their pace through the closing laps to conserve 15 invaluable championship points.

With four laps to go, Fazza's lead had grown to 56.72s, with Qatar 96 and Victory 1 maintaining the podium places and Aurantium, Giorgioffshore and Foresti & Suardi staying in the points. The six remaining boats held station over the final nautical miles, with the first blood of the new season falling to Fazza.

Saturday morning's final practice session threw up a last chance to perfect the set-up for the race, run the compulsory long lap for the first time and try out accelerations tests and race starts. But a spin and a resultant flooded engine bay for Giorgio Manuzzi and Peter McGrath in Maritimo 12 put an end to a miserable weekend for the Australian team. Pal-Virik Nilsen and Tom Barry-Cotter had also been plagued by engine sensor problems in Maritimo 11 and they were forced to start the race from last position after missing the Edox Pole Position session on Friday.

The fastest time on the final practice session of the weekend fell to the Norwegian Welmax boat, although the priority for all crews was to prepare the boats for actual race conditions in even warmer and slightly windier conditions than they had faced on Friday.

2009 Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix - final positions
1. Arif Saif Al-Zafeen(UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Fazza 3    59m 52.48s 
2. Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani (QA)/Steve Curtis (GB) Spirit of Qatar 96  @ 1m 10.27s
3. Mohammad Al-Mehairi (UAE)/Jean-Marc Sanchez (F) Victory 1    @ 1m 36.13s
4. Christian Rivolta (I)/Giovanni Carpitella (I) Aurantium 10    @ 1 lap behind
5. Riccardo Calugi (I)/Nicola Giorgi (I)/ Giorgioffshore 18    @ 1 lap behind
6. Francesco Pansini (MON)/Giampaolo Montevoci (I) Foresti & Suardi/Roscioli 8  @ 3 laps behind
Abdullah Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Matteo Nicolini (I) Spirit of Qatar 95    DNF  
Pal-Virik Nilsen (N)/Tom Barry-Cotter (AUS)/ Maritimo 11    DNF
Christian Zaborowski (N)/Jorn Tandberg (N) Welmax 90    DNF
Giorgio Manuzzi (RSM)/Peter McGrath (NZ) Maritimo 12    DNS
2009 UIM-WPPA Class 1 World and Middle East Powerboat Championships - positions after round 1:
1. Arif Saif Al-Zafeen(UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Fazza 3   20 pts  
2. Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani (QA)/Steve Curtis (GB) Spirit of Qatar 96 15 pts
3. Mohammad Al-Mehairi (UAE)/Jean-Marc Sanchez (F) Victory 1   12 pts
4. Christian Rivolta (I)/Giovanni Carpitella (I) Aurantium 10   9 pts
5. Riccardo Calugi (I)/Nicola Giorgi (I)/ Giorgioffshore 18   7 pts
6. Francesco Pansini (MON)/Giampaolo Montevoci (I) Foresti & Suardi/Roscioli 8 5 pts


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: 25/04/2009

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