September 20, 2012

Class 1 - Cernobbio Grand Prix Preview

A trio of Italian teams will line up on Lake Como, Cernobbio for the Italian Grand Prix, the 159th Class 1 Grand Prix to be run since the multi-event format was re-introduced in 1992, and the 19th to be played out on Italian waters in 14 years, looking to end the run of wins in 2012 by the Middle East teams.
LFFendi10, DAC Racing and Team D’Alessio-SCAM head the list of challengers who will be looking to unseat the current Championship leaders, Victory’s Arif Al Zafeen and Mohammed Al Marri.
Eight boats will line up on the spectacular Lake Como 21-23 September, when Regione Lombardia and the City of Cernobbio host round 3 of the 2012 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship.
Class 1 first raced on Lake Como in October 1987 in a showpiece event organised by the late Bruno Abbate, which was won by former Italian tennis champion Adriano Panatta, and returned there last year for the first time in over two decades as an official round of the World Championship.
Luca Formilli Fendi and Giovanni Carpitella look well placed to give the tens-of-thousands of spectators who are expected to turn out the home win they crave, after finishing second in race 1 of the Gabon Grand Prix in July and currently sit as the top placed Italian outfit lying in fourth spot in the Championship standings.
Formilli Fendi and Carpitella look a resurgent force in the Championship since switching into a Victory hull SCAM engine package last time out and both are confident that they can challenge for further podium honours in Italy as they go in search of their first win together since teaming-up in 2010.
Cappellini’s Mercury V8-powered Poliform clearly has great pace but the 10-time F1H2O World Champion, who switched to Class 1 in 2010, has struggled to find reliability this season. In Gabon, he and Montavoci,  race 2 winner’s in Cernobbio in 2011 were hampered in both qualifying and in the race by recurring technical issues that ended their podium prospects and both will be eager to post their first race points this season.
Team D’Alessio-SCAM field the same line-up that paired in Gabon and finished in fifth place, with the experienced Luca Nicolini, who finished fourth in both races in Cernobbio in 2011 on the team’s Championship debut, alongside rookie Gian Maria Gabbiani, making his Cernobbio debut and only his third start in Class 1.
Looking to upstage his countrymen is Matteo Nicolini who lines up in Spirit of Qatar 95 alongside Qatari, Ali Al Neama.
Nicolini - who lifted the European title in 2005 and the Edox Pole Position Championship last year - will be looking to add to his haul of four race wins, five pole positions and 27 podium finishes of those taking one win, one pole position and four podiums with Al Neama since they paired for the first time in 2011.
Dubai’s Victory Team will arrive in Lake Como looking to put their name back on the winner’s roster and eradicate the bitter memory of last year’s two race-win and pole position disqualifications.
Defending and four-time World Champion Arif Al Zafeen and double World Champion Mohammed Al Marri top the overall standings on 54 points after finishing third and winning in Qatar, winning again in Gabon and lead their UAE rivals, Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori, by 10 points.
Since teaming-up for the season finale in Dubai in 2011, Al Zafeen and Al Marri have proved to be an intimidating partnership, winning four out of five races and going quickest in qualifying in three-out-of-three Edox Pole Position outings.
Equally as impressive is the team’s record in Italy following their first win in Ischia in 1993 in their rookie season, winning 14 times from 20 races at 17 Grands Prix over 13 years, whereas Italian success post 1992 has been somewhat stifled, with all-Italian pairings winning four times on home waters; Antonio Gioffredi and Carlo Bonomi in Pescara in 1992, Luca Ferrari and Vincenzo Polli in 1995, Eduardo Polli and Lamberto Leoni in 1997 and Guido Cappellini and Giampaolo Montavoci in 2011 - as did Matteo Nicolini with Qatari Ali Al Neama both courtesy of last year’s Victory disqualifications. Britons, Norwegians and an American claimed the other three GPs during the same period.
After opting to sit out the Gabon Grand Prix, Spirit of Qatar’s two-boat line up return to competitive duties and will be looking to claw back lost points and reignite their title challenge.
A first win together in Class 1 for Sheikh Hassan and throttleman Steve Curtis, the defending European Champions, in the season-opener in Doha, Qatar in March put them joint top of the points table with Victory’s Al Zafeen and Al Marri. But the Dubai duo’s win in Gabon now gives them a 22 point advantage over their arch-rivals, with Team Abu Dhabi up into second place after Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori picked up their third podium of the year last time out.
Teammates Ali Al Neama and Matteo Nicolini, the defending Edox Pole Position Champions and race 1 winners in Cernobbio last season, find themselves relegated to fifth with Zabo-Isiklar’s Turkish-Norwegian duo, Ugur Isik and Christian Zaborowski, who produced their best result of the year in Gabon, finishing in fourth place, and who will hope to benefit with more time on the water running their upgraded Mercury V8 engine package.
Teams will face a revised course this year after officials responded to the call by some to modify the race circuit, extending the north end of the course in an effort to take the ‘sting’ out of the turn in front of Villa D’Este that saw both LFFendi10 and Spirit of Qatar 95 come to grief in 2011. LFFendi10 flipping over and Qatar spinning out but recovering to go on and finish on the podium.
Official qualifying in the Edox Pole Position takes place on Friday 21 September at 15.00hrs, with race 1 of the Italian Grand Prix on Saturday at 14.30hrs and race 2 on Sunday at 14.30hrs.
UIM CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP - after round 2
1. 3 Victory - 54pts
2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 44pts
3. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 32pts
4. 10 LFF10 - 22pts
5= 95 Spirit of Qatar - 9pts
5= 91 Zabo-Isiklar - 9pts
7. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 7pts
8. 90 Welmax - 5pts
9. 74 Poliform - 0pts
EDOX POLE POSITION CHAMPIONSHIP - after round 2
1. 3 Victory Team - 40pts
2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 21pts
3= 10 LFF10 - 15pts
3= 96 Spirit of Qatar - 15pts
5. 90 Welmax - 14pts
6. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 12pts
7. 9 Welmax - 9pts
8. 74 Poliform - 5pts
9. 91 Zabo-Isiklar - 4pts
10. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 3pts