ARENDAL, NORWAY // Arif al Zafeen and Nader bin Hendi, the reigning world champions, held off a late challenge from Spirit of Dubai to collect their fourth victory of the season, winning the BMW Norwegian Grand Prix yesterday. Averaging 173.15kph in Fazza 3, the UAE drivers kept the Spirit of Dubai duo of Giovanni Carpitella and Giorgio Manuzzi in check to win by 3.14secs.
The third-place finishers, Fazza 1 pilots Mohammed al Marri and Abdullah al Mehairbi - also Emiratis - finished more than two minutes later. It was a podium sweep for Dubai's Victory Team: the boatmakers built the first three finishers. Things could have taken a different turn, however. Norway's Kolbjorn Selmer and Jorn Tandberg, the early leaders and home favourites, bowed out on the second lap of 12 with a broken rudder on their boat, Welmax.
The pair had taken the lead from the green flag, opening up a six-second gap after one lap. However, a heavy landing snapped their rudder, and left them without steering, allowing bin Hendi and al Zafeen to sweep by and take a lead they never surrendered. "We have been saying all weekend that we knew Welmax was very fast," said bin Hendi, the throttle man. "The V8 motors have tremendous torque and top speed and I am sure they were doing over 150mph [241kph], while we were doing around 140mph. Once they got ahead our aim was to fight it out over the next 11 laps and put pressure on them.
"We were ready for a long fight and I think we were getting closer to them through the turns before they suddenly started veering left and right and we got by them." The Emiratis' victory gives them a massive boost as they try to retain their Class 1 world title. Their nearest rivals for the championship, teammates al Marri and al Mehairbi in Fazza 1, settled for third place. Fazza 1 fell behind due to a poor start that saw the boat take off in spectacular fashion before landing safely. "We changed the set-up but it didn't work at all," said al Marri, a two-time world champion. "I had to go down with the trim in order to get the boat back on the water when we caught a lot of air after Relekta cut in front of us.
"We then had problems with the steering but we opted to carry on and I used the throttles to help turn the boat. Getting third place with these problems was a bonus." With two podium finishes from two starts, the Italian Carpitella is pleased with his first two races in the cockpit of the all-new Spirit of Dubai. "It's a fantastic boat and I hope to be back for the next races in Sweden," he said. "Unlike in race one, we got off to a good start but Welmax and Relekta were both very fast away from the green flag.
"We were never really likely to threaten Fazza 3 as there was too much wind and I think the three-second gap at the end was more down to them slowing down than us catching up." The victory by al Zafeen and bin Hendi extends Fazza 3's championship lead to 29 points over Fazza 1. Welmax remain in third place, 53 points behind the leaders. The next two races on the calendar are in Sweden in August. * Agency