C1 Sheikh Hassan and Spirit of Qatar Team aim for European title in Italy

Italian Grand Prix, October 14-16, 2011

For immediate release
Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


· Ali Al-Neama and Nicolini start with chance of European title
· Spirit of Qatar Team carries out pre-race testing on Monday
· Italy’s Lake Como prepares to host Class 1 racing this weekend

CERNOBBIO (Italy): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and British throttleman Steve Curtis MBE will be aiming to clinch the UIM Class 1 European Powerboat Championship title at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix on Lake Como in northern Italy.

The Spirit of Qatar 96 crew head into the weekend’s two races with a five-point advantage over the Victory 3 crew of Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi following their success at the BMW Norwegian Grand Prix in Norway back in July.

Spirit of Qatar 95 team mates Ali Al-Neama and Matteo Nicolini also have a chance to claim the European title and trail Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis by eight points heading into the two races where a possible 40 points are available to the winners of both races on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Sheikh Hassan would dearly like to claim a second European title, but he is also fully aware that outright success in the shortened Class 1 racing series is a priority and he will take no risks in Italy for fear of damaging a challenge for the outright world title at the final round in Dubai in December.

“The priority is both the European Championship title and a podium finish,” said Sheikh Hassan. “We proved in Arendal that we could do it. That was not a lucky outcome at all. Since then, we have gone back and made some minor changes and we think we will be competitive from the start. We would like to go to Dubai with a good lead in the points, as we know we can perform better in open water conditions.

“The competition is getting stronger all the time. Each of the teams are improving race after race. We know the capabilities of Victory and Team Abu Dhabi, but kim.com is strong and Fendi Racing is sure to be competitive. It was a blow to us to lose the second of the Arendal races to the weather. The conditions suited us better. Regardless of the decision of the organisers, I think we could have raced.”
As much as Sheikh Hassan is pleased that the race takes place close to Nicolini Offshore workshops in Oggiono, the president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation is hoping that Nicolini’s workshops will not be needed during race weekend. “It’s our old hub in Europe and we know it is there for servicing as a back-up if we need it.”

Nicolini is also confident that he and the ever-improving Qatari Ali Al-Neama can be competitive in Spirit of Qatar 95. “In my opinion both 96 and 95 can compete for outright victory,” said the Italian. “I am sure that (Guido) Cappellini and the Abu Dhabi team will also be giving it a go. Race one could change the championship standings quite a lot.”

Nicolini is also hopeful that Monday’s test on Lake Como and subsequent changes to the settings will give the team an edge over race weekend. “We have made some small improvements and 95 will have a full set of ratios, so we will have the best set-up available for the races and the pole. In Norway, we did not have the right ratios because they did not arrive in time.”

Sheikh Hassan’s throttleman Steve Curtis will be aiming for a fifth European title on Sunday, although he admits it will not be easy. “They will be two tough races for us. Flat lake races do not suit our boat and it is unlikely there will be any bumpy water, which would give us the chance to claw back time. We have worked to improve our acceleration and this is the key to the type of courses we run these days.”

With the exception of a special race organised by the late Bruno Abbate in 1987, this will be the first Class 1 Grand Prix ever to be staged on Lake Como, although F1 racing visited the venue on 11 occasions between 1981 and 2006.

On-water activities for the provisional 11 Class 1 boats begins with the first of three practice sessions on the Lake Como course on Friday afternoon. The Spirit of Qatar Team will be permitted a second practice session on Saturday morning before the Edox Pole Position competition to determine the starting order for the first of the weekend’s two Grand Prix, starting at 15.30 hrs (Doha time).

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.

UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship – after round two:
1. Victory 3 59 pts
2. Spirit of Qatar 96 54 pts
3. Spirit of Qatar 95 35 pts
4. Poloform 74 23 pts
5. Team Abu Dhabi 5 22 pts
6. Fendi Racing 10 19 pts

UIM Class 1 European Powerboat Championship – after round one:
1. Spirit of Qatar 96 20 pts
2. Victory 3 15 pts
3. Spirit of Qatar 95 12 pts
4. Poloform 74 9 pts
5. Welmax 90 7 pts
6. Relexta 91 4 pts

Edox Pole Position Championship – after round two:
1. Victory 3 35 pts
2. Team Abu Dhabi 5 29 pts
3. Spirit of Qatar 95 27 pts
4. Spirit of Qatar 96 16 pts
5. Fendi Racing 10 14 pts
6. Welmax 90 10 pts
7. Relexta 91 7 pts
8. MITI 18 5 pts
9. firskfisken.no 4 pts
10. kim.com 74 2 pts


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



Date issued: 11/10/2011

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