Middle easten teams set the pace
The Dubai Victory Team maintained their 100 per cent start to the season as Mohammed Al Marri and Nadir Bin Hendi led home Victory in first and second place in the Hypo Group Montenegrin Grand Prix in Budva on Sunday.
Victory 1‘s Al Marri and Bin Hendi dominated the 23-lap, 93.83Nm race from start to finish too win comfortably from team-mates Abdullah Al Mehairbi and Jean-Marc Sanchez in Victory 7, with Middle East rivals, Abdullah Al Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini taking third place in Qatar 95.
Saturday’s result was a remarkable return to racing for the 2001 World and 2005 Middle East Champion, Al Marri. Out of the sport for more than a year, the 46 year-old driver stepped out of retirement to replace the injured Arif Al Zafeen – the defending World Champion – and produced a vintage performance, celebrating his 56th Class 1 start with the tenth win of his career.
“I didn’t realise quite how much I missed racing,” said the Dubai veteran. “Nadir and I knew we had to build up an understanding and the work in testing has paid off. I told him just to forget I was there and enjoy himself – you can see for yourself how good he is.”
Despite starting from pole position, it was a miserable race for Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al- Thani and Steve Curtis. The Qatar 96 crew, desperate to halt Victory’s early charge in the defence of their title, lost out in the race to the first turn buoy and trailed the two Dubai boats for the first four laps before pulling ahead of Victory 7 on lap five, but a blown engine on lap 20 put paid to any late charge by the Qatari-British combination, who limped home in sixth place.
“Obviously we are massively disappointed,” said Curtis. “We knew we couldn’t match the pace of the Victory boats at the start but felt we were capable of making up the difference on the course. But although we got passed Victory 7 we realised we wouldn’t overhaul Victory 1, and then had a problem.”
As Qatari hopes crumbled, Al Mehairbi and Sanchez regained the second place they had enjoyed for the first four laps, after a blistering start saw them at the head of the field. “We got off to a superb start,” said reigning World Champion throttleman, Sanchez. “I looked left and right and could only see Victory 1 coming up on the outside. I decided to let them go and get between them and Qatar 96. Abdullah is still getting used to Class 1 so to get a third and a second from his first two races is more than we could have hoped for.”
For the Qatar Team there was some consolation to ease the disappointment, with Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini taking their first podium of the season.
“We are pleased but disappointed at the same time – it was a tough race,” said Al-Sulaiti. “We had a problem from the start with our trim position and were squeezed a bit at the first corner by Victory 7. But we pushed hard throughout the race and then had a problem with one engine later on. However it was important to get on the podium and we needed the points to keep in touch in the title race.
Jotun‘s all-Norwegian crew of Jorn Tandberg and Bjorge Jacobsen produced their best performance of the season, finishing in a very credible fourth place, but a little frustrated not to match their third place in yesterday’s qualifying. “Of course we are pleased to have got points on the board here in Budva, but a little bit disappointed to have missed out on a podium finish,” said Bjorge Jacobsen.
“We had a problem this morning in testing, breaking a propeller, and were forced to change props and our set-up. But in the race we lacked the speed and performance that we have seen all weekend, so actually to take fourth was very good.”
Despite a technical problem early in the race, Giampaolo Montavoci and Kolbjorn Selmer hit their target of finishing in the points to take fifth place, for the second race in a row, with Roscioli Hotels Roma’s Domenico Cirilli and Sergio Carrasco, making his Class 1 debut, finishing seventh. But there was disappointment for SeveneleveN’s Nicola Giorgi and Giorgi Manuzzi, who had to sit out the race after an engine problem in the morning’s practice session
HYPO GROUP MONTENEGRIN GRAND PRIX – RESULTS
1. Victory 1 – M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 20pts
2. Victory 7 – A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 15pts
3. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) – 12pts
4. Jotun 90 – B Jacobsen (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) – 9pts
5. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – 7pts
6. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 5pts
7. Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 – S Carrasco (Spain) / D Cirilli (Spain) – 4pts
8. SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – dns
CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP – after round 2 of 8
1. Victory 1 – M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 44pts
2. Victory 7 – A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 31pts
3. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) – 25pts
4. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 20pts
5. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – 18pts
6. Jotun 90 – B Jacobsen (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) – 13pts
7. SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – 5pts
8= Negotiator 50 – B Eker (Norway) / C Parsonage (England) – 4pts
8=Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 – S Carrasco (Spain) / D Cirilli (Spain) – 4pts