Complete set for Emiratis
STRESA, ITALY // Nader bin Hendi and Arif al Zafeen breezed to a flawless victory at the Italian Grand Prix yesterday, adding the European Class 1 Powerboat title to last year's world title.
The Emirati pair went into the race with a one-point lead over their nearest title challengers but left them in their wake by storming from pole position to the chequered flag at an average speed of 188.90kph in grim racing conditions.
Battling low visibility and fog, bin Hendi and al Zafeen won in a time of 39mins 31.29secs, 15 seconds ahead of Italian racing legend Guido Cappellini and Swiss co-pilot Marcello Menegatto. The Skydive Dubai pairing of Talib al Sayed and Abdullah al Mehairbi placed third. "That completes the set," bin Hendi said after lifting the first European title of his Class 1 career to add to his Middle East and world crowns.
"We've been fighting a long time to win this so I'm relieved it's finally in the bag. We had a big lead of over a minute at one stage and eased off the throttles.
"It allowed the others to catch up but we didn't feel threatened. It's a great feeling to have won this which we both want to dedicate to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed for his incredible support." It was a tricky day for al Sayed and al Mehairbi, who had a shot at second place but accrued long lap penalties for missing turn buoys.
However, from fifth place they fought back to steal third place from Jorn Tandberg and Kolbjorn Selmer, the Welmax pair, less than 100 metres from the finish line.
"The support guys in the pits thought we were crazy for doing four long laps but we knew we had made a couple of mistakes out on the course and would be penalised so we decided to get them out of the way, one after the other," al Sayed said. "It meant we had to fight really hard with Welmax and Primatist to get on the podium but we did it and I'm proud if the way we fought back."
For half the race, it looked as if Abu Dhabi's Rashed al Tayer and John Tomlinson, his US throttleman, would claim second place in Team Abu Dhabi. But a blown motor ended their chances at the start of the ninth lap.
Also suffering technical problems were Giovanni Carpitella and Chris Parsonage in Negotiator who bowed out of the race on the 13th lap while holding fifth place - a result that ended their hopes of taking the European crown from bin Hendi and al Zafeen.
For the new European title-holders, however, there were no such problems and the Fazza crew have now increased their world championship lead to 33 points over al Sayed and al Mehairbi with just four races remaining.
"There will be no complacency from us," bin Hendi said after his 18th Class 1 career win. "Every race I enter is like the first one of my career. I always want to win and that won't change over the next four races."
Published: October 4, 2010 04:00 AM