ARENDAL, NORWAY // Arif al Zafeen and Nader bin Hendi, the UAE's world champions, held off a challenge by home favourites Jorn Tandberg and Kolbjorn Selmer to win the opening race of the 2010 BMW Norwegian Grand Prix yesterday. The Team Fazza 3 crew won a tightly contested event that saw the top three positions change during the race.
With clear water ahead of them, bin Hendi and al Zafeen, the Dubai residents, steered Fazza 3 to an average speed of 186.63kph and an eight-second win over the Norwegian Welmax crew. The Spirit of Dubai debutants, Giorgio Manuzzi and Giovanni Carpitella, claimed third in their first full race together. Al Zafeen and bin Hendi now lead the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship on 60 points with Mohammed al Marri and Abdullah al Mehairbi, also of the UAE, in second position on 39. Tandberg and Selmer moved into third place on 27.
The second race in the series will be held in Arendal today. "The start was very competitive and we saw Fazza 1 and Relekta 91 ahead of us, but Arif drove fantastically to get us a line to the first buoy," bin Hendi said after the 15th victory of his career. "Once we had the edge it was up to us to keep pushing to establish a lead over the rest. "We eased back a little to save the engines but it was important to keep an eye on Welmax as they are very fast. They can easily pull you in over a longer race and with tomorrow's race being around 20 miles longer, we'll have to find a different strategy."
Despite opening up a lead of around 30 seconds over Welmax, the Fazza 3 crew were happy to take the chequered flag by just eight seconds as the scarlet cat of pole-position winners Tandberg and Selmer loomed in their mirrors. "You can see how strong this package is when it stays together," Tandberg said. "But our strength is in speed; we just don't have any chance at the start." A one-lap penalty on the Norwegian boat Relekta 91 enabled Spirit of Dubai to make up ground and take third place almost 90 seconds behind the race winners.
"We had a horrible start," Carpitella said. "Once we had clear water, we went faster every lap." Al Marri and al Mehairbi were fourth in Fazza 1. * Agency