Qatar’s Ali Al-Neama, partnered by Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini, produced the greatest performance of his relatively short racing career to seal a sensational victory in Sunday’s second race of the Italian Grand Prix, round three of the 2012 UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship, on Lake Como.
The Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF)-backed duo started from third position and made a dream beginning to the 12-lap race to steal a march on Fendi Racing and Victory 3. They managed to hold the advantage through the opening laps and, when Fendi Racing was penalised with a penalty lap and dropped to fifth, the Qatar duo held off fierce late pressure from Victory 3 to reach the chequered flag and claim a memorable win in Spirit of Qatar 95.
His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and British throttleman Steve Curtis started the race near the rear of the field and fought their way back to finish in the final podium position in Spirit of Qatar 96, with Team Abu Dhabi taking fourth position and Fendi Racing rounding off the top five. Spirit of Qatar 96 made a good start from near the back of the field in the 12-lap race, but Al-Neama and Nicolini stole a march on the rest of the field and headed Fendi Racing, Victory 3 and Team Abu Dhabi through the first lap and into lap two.
Poliform had stopped on the course with technical problems. Spirit of Qatar 95 maintained the lead from Fendi Racing and Victory 3 through three laps and reached the one-third point with the advantage over the Italian and UAE boats.
Al-Neama and Nicolini maintained their lead into lap six, where Fendi Racing was awarded a penalty lap and slipped to fifth position. Spirit of Qatar 96 climbed to third and Team Abu Dhabi slotted into fourth. By two-thirds distance, Al-Neama and Nicolini remained on course for a sensational result and Spirit of Qatar 96 began to close on Victory 3, with Team Abu Dhabi, Fendi Racing and Zabo-Isiklar rounding off the field in cloudy racing conditions on Lake Como. Victory 3 began to close slightly on the Qatar 95 boat and the margin was just five seconds heading into the last three laps.
Victory 3 was now applying the pressure and the margin was just three seconds with two laps remaining. Al-Neama and Nicolini maintained their composure nonetheless and started the final lap with several boat-lengths lead over the World Champions and held off the late charge to take a memorable victory for the Qatar Team. Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis reached the finish in third to claim the final place on the podium.
Victory 3 laid down the gauntlet with a solitary lap of 2min 37.24sec in Sunday morning’s official practice session and Spirit of Qatar 95 ran closest early in the session with laps of 2min 38.47sec and 2min 37.73sec. Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis ran for two laps to get the set-up right for the race and clocked a quickest tour of 2min 39.94sec.
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