Victory’s Arif Al Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi took a giant step towards retaining their European title after an imperious flag-to-finish win in race 1 of the Italian Grand Prix.
Leading from the start the defending Champions backed their pole position status to take their 24th career wins and their third of the season to extend their lead in the World Championship standings to 16 points over Spirit of Qatar 96, completing the 12 lap, 52,66Nm race in 34mins 5.39secs at an average speed of 171.65km/h.
But crucially, today’s flawless drive by Al Zafeen and Bin Hendi turns a five point deficit in the European Championship into a six points advantage - again over Spirit of Qatar 96, with Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis finishing in a disappointing fourth place. “It may have looked easy but it wasn’t. We had to push hard from the start.” said Nadir bin Hendi. “95 was fast at the start and really pushed us to the first turn and for the first couple of corners we were looking to see where they were. But then we were able to control the race and steadily open up a comfortable lead and take the win. But the job is only half done. We have to finish it tomorrow.”
Ali Al Neama and Matteo Nicolini gave the Qatari Team something to celebrate, taking their third podium and best result of the season, bringing Spirit of Qatar 95 home in second place, with Team Abu Dhabi’s Ahmed Al Hameli and Majed Al Mansoori producing yet another impressive performance to finish third and complete a Middle East sweep of the podium.
Nicolini’s second place was also some consolation for the Italian fans who watched as first Fendi Racing failed to appear on the start line and then saw Poliform limp out of the race after just three laps. “I think this is a good result for us. In terms of top speed I think we are faster but Victory has incredible acceleration and this is where we have to improve. This is the only way we are going to get closer to them.” said Nicolini
With the race leaders disappearing into the distance, widening the gap from 15 seconds at the end of lap 3 to 40 seconds by race finish, the Spirit of Qatar crew had to keep one eye on Team Abu Dhabi who maintained a relentless pursuit but were unable to close down their Middle East rivals finishing 10 seconds adrift, with Al Hameli taking his second podium from three starts in Class 1 and Mansoori his first.
Belgium’s Frank Hemelaer marked his Class 1 debut alongside Luca Nicolini in FA.RO. ACCIAI moving up from eighth at the end of the first lap to finish in a very credible fifth place for Team D’Alessio-Scam on their season-entry into the Championship. Relekta came out on top winning the battle of the Norwegian outfits, finishing in sixth place after Welmax retired on lap five.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX, RACE 1 - results
1. 3 Victory - A Al Zafeen (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) 00.34.05,39
2. 95 Spirit of Qatar - A Al Neama (QAT) / M Nicolini (ITA) + 00.41,00
3. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - A Al Hameli (UAE) / M Al Mansoori (UAE) + 00.51,25
4. 96 Spirit of Qatar - H Al Thani (QAT) / S Curtis (ENG) + 01.07,87
5. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - F Hemelaer (BEL) / L Nicolini (ITA) + 1 LAP
6. 91 Relekta - U Isik (TUR) / C Zaborowski (NOR) + 1 LAP
7. 90 Welmax – B Jacobsen (NOR) / K Olsen (NOR) DNF
8. 74 Poliform - G Cappellini (MON) / G Montavoci (ITA) DNF
10 Fendi Racing - L Formilli Fendi (ITA) / G Carpitella (ITA) DNS
18 MITI Tech Power – S Sardelli (ITA) / N Giorgi (ITA) DNS
UIM CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP - after race 4
1. 3 Victory - 79pts 2. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 63pts 3. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 50pts 4. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 34pts 5. 74 Poliform - 23pts 6. 10 Fendi Racing - 19pts 7. 91 Relekta - 15pts 8. 90 Welmax - 14pts 9. 50 Parsonage Racing - 8pts 10. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 7pts 11. 69 ferskfisken.no - 5 pts 12. 18 MITI Tech Power - 4pts
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP - after race 2
1. 3 Victory - 35pts 2. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 29pts 3. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 27pts 4. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 12pts 5= 74 Poliform - 9pts 5= 91 Relekta - 9pts 7= 90 Welmax - 7pts 7= FA.RO. ACCIAI - 7pts 9. 69 ferskfisken.no - 5 pts 10= 10 Fendi Racing - 0pts 10= 50 Parsonage Racing - 0pts 10= 18 MITI Tech Power - 0pts