Class 1 Qatar Grand Prix – Sheikh Hassan breaks nine year jinx

Race one - Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix 2012
The Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix, the opening round of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, first race took place in Doha today, 15th March. Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis led home a Spirit of Qatar one-three, ending a nine year wait for Sheikh Hassan to break his jinx of not winning on home waters since taking his first podium in Doha back in 2004.

Teammates Ali Al Neama and Matteo Nicolini made it a double podium celebration for the Doha based team, coming home in third place behind Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori.

It was a day of high drama inside the Pearl of Qatar that started in the morning’s interrupted practice session, with Welmax crashing out and FA.RO ACIAI bursting into flames, side-lining both outfits for today’s race.

The drama carried over into the race with Victory’s Arif Al Zafeen and Mohammed Al Marri penalised a total of four penalty laps.

The parade lap saw Poliform immediately in trouble and limping back to the pits on one engine as the six remaining boats headed out for the start to run a revised circuit after race organisers reduced the lap distance to 6.63Nm.

The Spirit of Qatar 96 duo found themselves trailing in second place after the start as Victory’s Al Zafeen and Al Marri edged ahead on the run to the first turn mark to lead at the end of lap one. Spirit of Qatar 95 came through in third ahead of Team Abu Dhabi, Fendi Racing and Relekta, both Fendi Racing and Relekta’s race ending on lap two.

By lap three Victory had opened up a 12 second lead but were adjudged by race officials to have moved across on Spirit of Qatar 96 on the run to the first turn and handed a penalty lap. Team Abu Dhabi passed Spirit of Qatar 95 and up into third place.

Victory’s penalty lap proved costly dropping them to fourth and last place, with Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis taking full advantage and surging into the lead.

For defending World Champion Al Zafeen the day deteriorated into a farce, missing a buoy on the penalty lap, only to be handed another and then missing the same buoy, ultimately collecting four penalty lap infringements and running out the race in fourth spot. 'I do not know what happened and why we got the first penalty.' said a tight-lipped Al Zafeen.

Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis were able to maintain their pace out front and from lap four were never troubled, going on to complete the nine lap, 56.26Nm race in 31.53,37secs at an average speed of 198.40km/h. 'This has been a long time coming and it doesn’t get any better than to win at home,' said Sheikh Hassan. 'There was no question that Victory came over on us at the start and then they made their own problems. It is clear from our performance in qualifying and Matteo and Ali holding them off this afternoon that we have upped our game and are on their pace.'

Race one - Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix 2012

Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori continued the impressive form they have shown throughout the weekend and once they had passed Al Neama and Nicolini were able to take their second podium together since teaming-up in Class 1 in Norway last year.

Despite a recurring electronic problem that kept cutting power to one engine, the Spirit of Qatar 95 duo were able to hang on to third spot for what Nicolini described as an ‘unexpected podium’.

Race two of the Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix takes place on Saturday, 17 March with Sheikh Hassan looking to make it an historic win-double.

Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix, Race 1 – results
1. 96 Spirit of Qatar - H Al Thani (QAT) / S Curtis (ENG) 00.31.53,37
2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - R Al Tayer (UAE) / M Al Mansoori (UAE) + 00.13,77
3. 95 Spirit of Qatar - A Al Neama (QAT) / M Nicolini (ITA) + 00.39,25
4. 3 Victory - A Al Zafeen (UAE) / M Al Marri (UAE) + 01.48,95
5. 10 Fendi Racing - L Formilli Fendi (ITA) / G Carpitella (ITA) DNF
6. 91 Relekta - U Isik (TUR) / C Zaborowski (NOR) DNF
7. 74 Poliform - G Cappellini (MON) / G M Gabbiani (ITA) DNF
8. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - M Roggiero (ITA) / P V Nilsen (NOR) DNS
9. 90 Welmax - P Gaiser (BRA) / B Jacobsen (NOR) DNF

UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship - after race 1
1. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 20pts 2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 15pts 3. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 12pts 4. 3 Victory - 9pts 5. 10 Fendi Racing - 0pts 6. 91 Relekta - 0pts 7. 74 Poliform - 0pts 8. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 0pts 9. Welmax - 0pts

Middle East Championship - after race 1
1. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 20pts 2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 15pts 3. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 12pts 4. 3 Victory - 9pts 5. 10 Fendi Racing - 0pts 6. 91 Relekta - 0pts 7. 74 Poliform - 0pts 8. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 0pts 9. Welmax - 0pts

Race one - Pearl of Qatar Grand Prix 2012

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