Ahmed al Hameli clinched a sensational victory for Team Abu Dhabi in the Grand Prix of Portugal yesterday to open his challenge for the 2010 Union Internationale Motonautique F1 World Championship title in style. "This was just the start we needed," said a delighted al Hameli. "I took my chance and am so pleased to have made such a positive start to the season."
Thani al Qamzi, his teammate, surged through the field to claim third overall and a podium double for the Abu Dhabi racing operation. The one-three finish means that Team Abu Dhabi have opened up a useful early season lead in the UIM F1 Teams' Championship. Al Hameli, 31, controlled the opening round of the eight-race series on the Arade river in Portimao to repeat the victory he secured at the same venue last year.
The Emirati now has a five-point lead in the drivers' championship over Italy's Francesco Cantando, the race runner-up. Al Qamzi had to fend off a fierce challenge over the closing laps from Qatar's Jay Price, who had been demoted by event officials from his initial pole position to 14th overall. This handed the pole to Cantando while al Hameli moved up to second on the grid. Al Hameli began to challenge the Italian into the first turn, but the race was yellow-flagged when three boats struggled off the start line and blocked the course. Al Hameli trailed Cantando after the restart and the Italian began to pull away after four of the 42 laps.
But the race was stopped by a second yellow flag situation and when it restarted on lap 10 al Hameli surged into the lead. It was halted again when Finland's Sami Selio, who was fourth overall, stalled and when the race got under way again al Hameli was able to fend off Cantando's challenge He extended his lead to five seconds with 18 laps remaining and then stretched his advantage to nine seconds as he closed in on his second race win. * Agencies
1. Ahmed al Hameli (UAE) 20 pts 2. Francesco Cantando (I) 15 pts 3. Thani al Qamzi (UAE) 12 pts 4. Jay Price (QA) 9 pts 5. Pierre Lundin (S) 7 pts 6. Andy Elliott (GB) 5 pts 7. Fabian Kalsow (D) 4 pts 8. Davide Padovan (I) 3 pts 9. Fabio Comparato (I) 2 pts 10. Marco Gambi (I) 1 pt