AQUA Franky Zapata claims victory in first heat at inaugural Aquabike Grand Prix of Qatar
2011 UIM AQUABIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Aquabike Grand Prix of Qatar, March 10-12 – round 1
For immediate release
Friday, March 11th, 2011
ZAPATA CLAIMS THRILLING VICTORY IN FIRST RUNABOUT
HEAT AT INAUGURAL UIM AQUABIKE GRAND PRIX OF QATAR
· Qatar’s Waled Al-Sharshani seals eighth in Runabout Heat 1
· Victory falls to Jean-Baptiste Botti in Heat 1 of Ski Division F1
· France’s Julie Bulteau snatches victory in first Ski Ladies F1 heat
DOHA (Qatar): Franky Zapata, Jean-Baptiste Botti, Julie Bulteau and Valerio Calderoni claimed victories in their respective Runabout, Ski Division F1, Ski Women’s F1 and Freestyle categories after the first World Championship heats at the UIM Aquabike Grand Prix of Qatar in Doha Bay on Friday.
A large crowd gathered on the Doha Corniche in perfect weather conditions to witness a thrilling Runabout race after French girl Bulteau had controlled the women’s heat, Botti had held off Jeremy Poret to win the Ski Division F1 category and Italy’s Calderoni had prevailed in the Freestyle section.
“This is the perfect start to the season for me,” said Bulteau. “It was important that I made a winning start on a nice course at a new venue. Maximum points from the first heat was the target.”
Nadir Bin Hendi, the defending UIM Class 1 world powerboat champion, returned to the sporting discipline he had grown up with to take an early lead in the Runabout race. Legendary French rider Francky Zapata managed to sneak through and pulled away but was then caught again by Bin Hendi near the end. Zapata eventually reached the chequered flag after 16 laps with a slender 2.617s advantage.
The Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) entered eight riders in two of the four on-water disciplines. Hassan Al-Mannai finished 16th in the Ski Division F1 class, but the star of the day for the host nation was Waled Al-Sharshani, who finished eighth in the prestigious Runabout heat.
“Jet ski and aquabike racing has been popular in Qatar for many years and we have a very competitive crop of new riders coming through the ranks,” said Hassan Bilal, head of aquabike racing at the Qatar Marine Sports Federation.
The event is being organised by the QMSF under the presidency of His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, in collaboration with H20 Racing and under the auspices of the UIM.
The 40 riders entered in the Runabout category are permitted to run a powerful 1300cc, 350hp engine in their race craft with a top speed of between 130-140 km/h.
The early minutes of the Pole Position competition featured a battle between the UAE’s Nadir Bin Hendi, Aquabike World Champion in 1995, 1996 and 2003, the talented French duo of Zapata and Cyrille Lemoine and Italian Mattia Fracasso.
Frenchman Francois Medori eventually recorded Pole Position on his Rotax-engined RXT with a lap of 1m 32.628s to beat Zapata by 1.807s. Francasso and France’s Jeremy Perez completed the top four and Bin Hendi was fifth.
Waled Al-Sharshani and Mohammed Al-Haidus led the Qatari contingent and qualified in sixth and 22nd overall. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti, Rashid Al-Kuwari, Majed Al-Sharshani and Hassan Al-Manni missed out on qualifying for the afternoon heat.
Medori headed Zapata and Francasso into the 20-minute highlight race of the afternoon, but it was Bin Hendi who snatched an early lead from Medori, Zapata and Fracasso. The Emirati began to pull away from his rivals over the subsequent five laps, as Al-Sharshani held 11th and Al-Haidus slotted into 16th.
But Zapata managed to pass Bin Hendi in the latter stages of the race and held on to take victory by the margin of 2.617s. Medori, Lemoine and Fracasso completed the top five. Qatar’s Al-Sharshani, Al-Haidus and Ali Al-Meraizeeq finished eighth, 18th and 19th overall.
Ski Division F1
Ski Division F1 class aquabikes are fitted with 800cc, 150hp engines with top speeds of up to 110 km/h. Two of the three Poret brothers – Jeremy and Mickael – battled for Pole Position for most of the session, with Jeremy stealing through to take the fastest lap of 1m 26.707s.
Jean-Baptiste Botti snatched second from Mickael Poret in the dying seconds and Christopher Courtois also finished well to push Poret down into fourth place. Qatar’s Walid Al-Sharshani and Hassan Al-Mannai qualified in 20th and 22nd of the 25 registered riders.
Twenty-five riders lined up for the 20-minute race and the defending World Champion Mickael Poret was forced out of the running within the first two laps, as Botti, Jeremy Poret and Courtois took up the challenge at the head of the field, with Poret passing his rival heading into lap five.
Botti slipped passed again on the next tour as the leading duo pulled well clear of Courtois and fourth-placed Spaniard Nachette Armillas. The leading quartet held station to the chequered flag but France’s Vincent Villat passed Italian Alberto Monti to seal fifth and was promoted to fourth when Armillas was penalised for a jump start and slipped to sixth. Qatar’s Al-Mannai completed the race in 16th position.
Ski Ladies F1
Eight ladies took to the waters of Doha Bay and Bulteau snatched Pole Position from Portugal-based Italian Stefania Balzer for the race during her 11-lap stint on the course. Slovenia’s Pija Sumer lined up in a distant third position.
Bulteau headed Balzer into the 15-minute race and had begun to pull away when the red flag was raised. But the French lady continued where she had left off when action resumed and cruised into the distance to seal an emphatic victory. Balzer came under pressure early on from Sumer, but managed to pull away as the race progressed to seal a comfortable runner-up spot.
Three of the top riders lined up in the exciting Freestyle category to be awarded points by a panel of three judges for a variety of tricks, including barrel-rolls, back flips and spins.
The UAE’s Khaled Al-Qubaisi was first on to the water to impressive the judges in his three-minute stint. Italy’s Roberto Mariani and Valerio Calderoni followed the Emirati but Frenchman Romain Stampers was a non-starter.
Calderoni was awarded the maximum 25 points by race judges for amassing a winning score of 429 points, with Al-Qubaisi (309 pts) earning 20 points for second overall.
Saturday’s timetable kicks off with a warm-up opportunity for the riders in the four respective categories from 11.00hrs until 13.00hrs. After a one-hour break, the second race heats get underway at 14.00hrs with the Ski Ladies category, followed by the Ski Division F1, Freestyle and Runabout F1 runners.
Runabout – Heat 1 results
1. Franky Zapata (F) Zapata 16 laps 25 pts
2. Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Sea-Doo @ 2.617s 20 pts
3. Francois Medori (F) RXT @ 33.12s 16 pts
4. Cyrille Lemoine (F) Sea-Doo @ 36.828s 13 pts
5. Mattia Fracasso (I) Sea-Doo @ 53.438s 11 pts
6. Lorenzo Benaglia (I) Sea-Doo 1 lap behind 10 pts, etc
8. Waled Al-Sharshani (QA) Kawasaki 1 lap behind 8 pts
18. Mohammed Al-Haidus (QA) Sea-Doo 5 laps behind 0 pt
19. Ali Al-Meraizeq (QA) Sea-Doo 5 laps behind 0 pt
Ski Division F1 – Heat 1 results
1. Jean-Baptiste Botti (F) Hydrospace 14 laps 25 pts
2. Jeremy Poret (F) Zapata @ 3.011s 20 pts
3. Christopher Courtois (F) Zapata @ 41.120s 16 pts
4. Vincent Villat (F) Zapata @ 1m 17.935s 13 pts
5. Alberto Monti (I) Polaris @ 1m 19.057s 11 pts
6. Nachette Armillas (E) Hydrospace 1 lap behind 10 pts, etc
16. Hassan Al-Mannai (QA) Hydrospace 3 laps behind
Waled Al-Sharshani (QA) Kawasaki DNF
Ski Ladies F1 – Heat 1 results
1. Julie Bulteau (F) Zapata 9 laps 25 pts
2. Stefania Balzer (F) FZ 950 @ 14.738s 20 pts
3. Pija Sumer (SLO) Hydrospace @ 47.251s 16 pts
4. Marta Sorrentino (I) Hydrospace @ 1m 34.247s 13 pts
5. Paola Boggi (I) FZ 1 lap behind 11 pts, etc
Freestyle – Heat 1 results
1. Valerio Calderoni (I) Jet Revolution 429 pts 25 pts
2. Khaled Al-Qubaisi (UAE) Yamaha 309 pts 20 pts
3. Roberto Mariani (I) Jet Revolution 225 pts 16 pts
Romain Stampers (F) Race Spirit DNS
2011 Aquabike Grand Prix of Qatar - timetable of events
Saturday, March 12
11.00 – 13.00 Warm-up
11.00 – 11.30 Ski Ladies F1
11.30 – 12.00 Ski Division F1
12.00 – 12.30 Freestyle
12.30 – 13.00 Runabout F1
14.00 – 16.00 World Championship races – Heat 2
14.00 – 14.30 Ski Ladies F1
14.30 – 15.00 Ski Division F1
15.00 – 15.30 Freestyle
15.30 – 16.00 Runabout F1
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