Following a commanding display in the mornings pole position competition when they finished the session 4 seconds clear of second placed Spirit of Qatar 95, Arif al Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi in Victory 3 claimed their 3rd race win of the season with a wire to wire victory in the first race of the Italian Grand Prix weekend in Cernobbio.
Unfortunately for the Italian fans, despite starting the weekend with 4 boats in the pits only Poliform 74 and Faro.Accia 23 started the race, as technical problems forced the other two boats to retire before the race started and of these only Faro.Accia with veteran Luca Nicolini on throttles and newcomer Frank Hemelaer steering finished the race in a creditable 5th place. After claiming a promising 4th place in the morning’s pole, Guido Cappellini started well, maintaining his fourth place during the hotly contested start lap but had to retire after just 3 laps thus ending Italy’s best hope of a podium place in this race.
The anticipated battle between Victory 3 and Spirit of Qatar 96 failed to materialise as the Qatari boat suffered engine problems during the morning’s pole position competition and could only claim 5th place on the start line, thus leaving them too much to do in the start lap to make up for their poor starting position. They managed to gain enough ground so that they were challenging Abu Dhabi for 3rd place in the early part of the race, but after failing to capitalise on taking the long lap before Abu Dhabi they appeared to back off for the latter part of the race and settle for 4th.
For the new pairing of Ahmed Al Hameli and Majed al Mansoori the weekend continues to get better and better as they gain confidence in the boat. A solid performance in pole position earned them third place which they then turned into a well-deserved podium place after taking the battle to Qatar 95 throughout the race. For tomorrow they are hoping that a strong start in Sunday’s race could top the weekend off with an even better finish.
For the triumphant pair in Victory 3 it was a case of everything going to plan. The morning went well with their first run producing a further improvement on Fridays lap time which set the bar beyond the reach of any of the chasing pack. A change of gear ratio and propeller failed to bring any further improvement, but as no one else appeared to be in a position to challenge the leading time it was a case of job done for the morning. The race itself was a continuation of Nadir and Arif’s domination of this event so far. The all-important dash for the first turn saw Ali al Neama and Matteo Nicolini pushing the Emirati duo all the way, but as Nadir stated “ We could see Ali and Matteo coming up strong on our right but we knew we had the inside line and had full confidence in the ability of our boat to come through the turn ahead, after that we agreed we just had to push for the first half of the race to open a gap and then as long as there were no technical problems with the boat we should be clear all the way to the finish.” And so it was, resulting in a further 20 points added to their tallies in both the European and World titles, thus increasing their lead in the World title and moving from second to first in the European championship.
With just Sunday’s race to go to complete the this year’s European round of racing, confidence is high in the Victory Team camp, but they are aware that things can change very quickly in racing and so will be as diligent as ever in Saturday evenings preparation for the next race.