Home favourites, Sheike Hassen Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Curtis, finish second

Victory forFazza 3in the opening round of the Class 1 offshore world championship was sealed on Saturday by Arif Al Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi. Second slot was filled by Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis, with Class 1 debutant Mohammad Al Mehairi and Jean-Marc Sanchez claiming third place in a sun-kissed Qatar Marine Festival Grand Prix.

The reunited pairing of Al Zafeen and Bin Hendi powered through to a comfortable victory in the end, but they did not have it all their own way. A fantastic start byQatar 95saw the Edox Pole Position winner’s storm away with the early lead, but engine troubles forced them to retire on lap nine while leading the race. This cleared the way forFazza 3to take the first win of the season. With the experience of two world champions aboard, they never looked in any doubt of getting the season of to the perfect start.

“I’m very happy with the win, but this season is much tougher,95and96are really strong and so are our team-mates inVictory 1,” said the returning Al Zafeen. A delighted Bin Hendi added: “We went neck-and- neck at the start, but they had the greater speed. Once they got in front, we had to push to the max. I am very happy to have won here for the second year in a row.”

Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis, inQatar 96, grabbed second place in the team’s home grand prix. Having been happy to just finish on the podium in the run up to the race, the second place will be welcome although there were mixed reactions as it came at the expense of their team-mates,Qatar 95. Sheikh Hassan said:

“We would have settled for third, it is unfortunate what happened to95. We really wanted them to finish first.” Steve Curtis went on:

“The start here is so important, we had a good one, but we will be happier in the rough.”

The final podium place went to newcomer Al Mehairi and Sanchez. The new pairing were overjoyed with their first race together and the instant success they achieved. Al Mehairi, who had set his sights on a podium finish prior to the race, said:

“I’m very happy with my first race, the aim for the Victory team is always to finish on the podium.” Sanchez, guiding a rookie driver to the podium for the third successive season in Doha, added: “I’m delighted with my new driver, this was our first time together and there is more to come.”

The early leaders Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini got off to a perfect start and pulled away from the chasing pack only to see all their hard work from the weekend come to a miserable end as an engine failure brought their challenge to a sudden halt. Despite their early retirement, Al-Sulaiti was upbeat:

“Before it stopped, the gap was over 15 seconds. It was an excellent performance by the boat. It is a good sign, we were strong and fast.”

Aurantium, with Giovanni Carpitella and Christian Rivolta racing for the first time together in Class 1, turned their qualifying promise into an excellent performance in the race. They were delighted with their fourth placing which sets them up nicely for their home grand prix in Alicante, where the rougher conditions will suit them better.

“It was a very good performance; the boat is running very well. The boat is fast, we prepared this morning and we were with the leaders at the first mark, but the Victory boat was too close for us to get to the corner first.”

Giorgioffshorealso had a good start to the season finishing fifth. The new pairing of Nicola Giorgi and Riccardo Calugi showed good speed and reliability as they look to build their partnership.Foresti & Suardi – Roscioli HotelsGiampaolo Montavoci and Francesco Pansini came through in sixth place despite suffering gearing problems hampering their efforts at the start and end of the race.

There was frustration for European Champion Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski inWelmax 90, the quietly confident Norwegians snapped a prop shaft on lap three and a bitterly disappointing weekend for Maritimo Australia concluded when engine trouble sawMaritimo 11retire on the fifth lap.

QATAR MARINE FESTIVAL GRAND PRIX – Results

1. Fazza 3 – A Al Zafeen (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE)

2. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (QAT) / S Curtis (GBR)

3. Victory 1 – M Al Mehairi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (FRA)

4. Aurantium 10 ?” C Rivolta (ITA) / G Carpitella (ITA)

5. Giorgioffshore 18 ?” R Calugi (ITA) / N Giorgi (ITA)

6. Foresti & Suardi – Roscioli Hotels 8 – F Pansini (ITA) / G Montavoci (ITA)

7. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (QAT) / M Nicolini (ITA 02.40.68

8. Maritimo 11 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS) / PV Nilsen (NOR) – DNF

9. Welmax 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR) / J Tandberg (NOR) – DNF

10. Maritimo 12 – G Manuzzi (SMR) / P McGrath (NZL) – DNS