Spirit of Qatar teams come second, third fastest in pole race
TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK DOHA
SPIRIT of Qatar Team’s boats 96 and 95 may upstage Victory Team from the UAE in the first race of the Pearl Qatar Grand Prix, the opening round of the UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship on Thursday.
Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor al Thani and Steve Curtis, in Spirit of Qatar 96, grabbed the second place behind world champion Victory Team 3 of Arif Saif al Zafeen and Mohammed al Marri during the pole race on Wednesday. At the 4.12 nautical miles course, the local team’s second boat, Spirit of Qatar 95 driven by Ali al Neama and Matteo Nicolini, turned out to be the third quickest.
With two Qatari boats following the UAE’s lead boat, anything is possible in the first race which is likely to experience some stirring front-running tomorrow. The first race of the season will be run at the 8.44NM course at 3 pm on Wednesday with the starting lap covering 3.24NM.
The second race will take place on Saturday to wind up the first week of the offshore racing series.
The first qualifying session of the year produced one of the closest finishes in pole position history, with the Victory 3 boat eventually holding on to pole by just over half a second from Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis in Spirit of Qatar 96. A mere 5/100ths of a second had separated the duo heading into the closing minutes, but Spirit of Qatar 96 lost a water hose to the engine and was unable to challenge in the dying seconds for a faster time.
“Even though we finished second I am really excited,” said Sheikh Hassan. “The boat did perform well and the winter practice paid off. We lost the hose and flooded the engine bay but that’s part of the game. I was upset with the steering system last time out in Dubai, but we are now in the same time bracket as Victory Team’s and it is a different ball game.” Neama and Nicolini finished third in Spirit of Qatar 95 and Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashid al Tayer and Majed al Mansoori were fourth of the eight boats that took to the water.
“We want to bring spectators on to the Pearl to see the racing and we will erect screens for people to watch the racing live,” added Sheikh Hassan, driver of Spirit of Qatar 96. “This is a long offshore course, nearly eight and a half miles, and whether it is bumpy or flat on the water, we know that we will have high speeds.” Spirit of Qatar 95’s Nicolini is relishing Thursday’s opening race of the new season from third position. “I am quite happy with third today. I am sure we will get a very high speed.
I think conditions are good. With the long length, it should be easier to overtake.
“On the shorter circuits, it is more difficult to overtake unless you make a pass at the start. The shame is that with a long circuit and nine boats it is not so good for the spectator for a good show. Maybe in the future we need to look at something for the championship as a whole with a mixed race, one long and one short course, depending where you are – maybe one on open seas and one close to the shore.” The two-race Pearl Qatar Grand Prix is being organised by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF), which is hosting a round of the UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship for the first time since 2009.
Edox Pole Position Spirit of Qatar 96 laid down the gauntlet with a potent solitary early lap of 2m 24.79s to edge the early advantage from Victory 3 (2m 25.46s). Spirit of Qatar 95 settled into third with a tour of 2m 26.32s in ideal race conditions, but just 1.64 seconds separated the first five boats.
Victory 3 edged 0.56 seconds in front of Spirit of Qatar 96 as the session reached the mid-point and Al- Zafeen and Al-Marri extended their advantage still further with a fourth lap of 2m 23.32s. Spirit of Qatar 95 improved to 2m 25.26s, but remained in third behind Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis.
Could Spirit of Qatar 96 snatch pole position in the closing minutes? The first attempt yielded a stunning lap of 2m 23.37s, but it was agonisingly 5/100ths of a second outside the Dubai boat’s leading time as the clocked ticked down. Victory 3 took to the water again to confirm the pole time and the crew were duly rewarded with an even faster time of 2m 22.84s. Spirit of Qatar 96 succumbed to hose trouble and Sheikh Hassan was unable to challenge for the coveted pole position.