STRESA (Italy): The future of the sport may be the hot topic off the water but on Italy’s Lake Maggiore it was business as usual for world champions Nader Bin Hendi and Arif Al Zafeen yesterday (Friday) as they set their sights on the 2010 Class 1 European Powerboat Championship.
Piloting the Dubai cat Fazza – powered by twin V12 Victory engines – Bin Hendi and Al Zafeen lit up a gloomy day on Italy’s second largest lake by setting the fastest time in practice on the eve of race one at the Italian Grand Prix in Stresa.
The UAE stars quickly established the best time of the day but with their rivals starting to close in on Fazza’s fastest lap Bin Hendi and Al Zafeen took to the course for two flawless final laps in the last fifteen minutes of the session to better their previous best by almost two seconds and strike the first psychological blow of the weekend.
Their time of 2m:20.89s (190.23kmph) came just hours after championship officials rejected Fazza’s appeal against a time penalty incurred in the previous race in Sweden – a result which leaves them twelve points behind European Championship leader Giovanni Carpitella with two races in Europe remaining.
“We are not happy at all with the verdict from Sweden but we just have to accept it and move on,” said throttleman Bin Hendi.
“It means we have to go all out for two wins this weekend – but even if Giovanni gets two second place finishes and wins the European title, two wins for us will still strengthen our place in the overall world championship.”
But while Carpitella is Fazza’s biggest threat to winning the European crown, the Italian – now throttling Negotiator alongside Britain’s Chris Parsonage – will need to improve on his practice times if he is to successfully take the title.
Making their racing debut together, Carpitella and Parsonage posted the fourth fastest time of the day behind Fazza, Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Tayer and John Tomlinson of the USA (2m:22.60s – 187.95kmph) and the surprise third place of F1 legend Guido Cappellini and Marcello Menegatto in Primatist (2m:23.56s – 186.69kmph). Fifth best was the second Dubai boat Skydive Dubai crewed by Talib Al Sayed and Abdullah Al Mehairbi.
Seven of the eight-boat fleet took to the water yesterday (Friday) for what was one of the closest sessions of the season. Although by the end of the 90 minutes Bin Hendi and Al Zafeen had ultimately set an advantage of just under two seconds, the next five boats were separated by less then three seconds after several laps of the 4.02Nm course.
The times will not affect the starting order – the EDOX Pole Position will be determined before today’s (Saturday) first race of the Grand Prix weekend – but Fazza’s storming final two laps will have given them a major boost in morale as they go hunting the first silverware of the Class 1 campaign
Italian Grand Prix – Official Practice
1. Fazza – Bin Hendi/Al Zafeen (UAE) 2m:20.89s (190.23kmph) 2. Team Abu Dhabi – Al Tayer/Tomlinson (UAE/USA) 2m:22.60s (187.95kmph)
3. Primatist – Cappellini/Menegatto (I) 2m:23.56s (186.69kmph)
4. Negotiator – Carpitella/Parsonage (I/UK) 2m:23.84s (186.33kmph) 5. Skydive Dubai – Al Sayed/Al Mehairbi (UAE) 2m:24.98s (184.86kmph)
Caption: Fazza – piloted by Nader Bin Hendi and Arif Al Zafeen – sets the fastest time in free practice ahead of the Italian Grand Prix in Stresa
For further information: Alan Ewens, Victory Team Media Manager. Tel: +97150 4514188. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org