ABU DHABI // Alex Carella, from Team Qatar, held off a stern challenge from Team Abu Dhabi's Ahmed Al Hameli on Friday to win the 20th Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the UIM F1 H20 powerboat world championship.
Carella's win, which moved him to top of the drivers standings with one race left, sets up a battle with his Team Qatar colleague, Jay Price, for the championship at the final race in Sharjah on December 15-16.
It also effectively ended the championship challenge of Team Abu Dhabi's Thani Al Qamzi, who finished sixth.
In sparkling conditions on Abu Dhabi's Corniche breakwaters, Carella led from start to finish in the 35-lap race on the 2.17km, eight-pin course.
Hameli trailed him relentlessly, keeping the gap to around three seconds for most of the race. With five laps remaining, he cut the gap to 2.42 seconds and when Carella momentarily slipped on lap 31, prospects of a local win increased as Al Hameli cut the lead to just 1.85 seconds.
But that was as close as he would get.
"He was very, very strong coming after me especially at the end," Carella said.
"The sun was coming down and it was difficult in this part to see the buoy and I almost messed the race [up] because Ahmed was so close to me, but I managed to stick it out. It was perfect."
Carella, who won the pole position on Thursday despite being ill with food poisoning, had to overcome a break in concentration after the yellow flag was raised on the very first lap.
Shaun Torrente and Bartek Marszalek were involved in a collision soon after the race began.
The race resumed from the seventh lap, when Al Hameli grabbed second place from Marit Stromoy.
"Normally, when you have a good start and a yellow flag happens, you go away and forget and come back," said Carella after his third career victory, and second of the year after a July win in Russia.
"But a yellow flag on the first lap is never good and it wasn't easy."
The runner-up finish for Al Hameli was his third podium finish in succession, following his win in Ukraine in July and a second-place finish in China in October.
"I tried really hard to pass Alex, but he was very fast throughout," he said.
"I waited for mistakes but he drove so well, he didn't make any. But it's been a great feeling, racing here and doing well."
Carella now leads Price, who finished third, by just five points as the pair head to Sharjah's Khaled Lagoon next week, precisely the points difference between a first (20) and second-place (15) finish.
Price, who won the title in 2008 and led the standings until this race, said he was looking forward to the final race.
"It's going to be exciting just between ourselves," he said.
"We're not going to do anything silly; the one who qualifies out front, he's going to run where he needs to run and we're not gong to hurt each other."
Al Qamzi began the race with a realistic shot at clinching the world title in Sharjah as he was only 12 points behind then-leader Price. He initially slipped to seventh after the yellow flag, though he soon worked his way up to fifth and stayed there until the 25th lap.
But he was eventually overtaken by Pierre Lundin with five laps to go and ended sixth, behind Lundin in fourth and Franceso Cantando.
Al Qamzi remains third in the championship points table, 24 points behind Carella and 10 points ahead of teammate Al Hameli in fourth.
Earlier Friday, Britain's Matt Palfreyman secured his second victory of the weekend in the F-4S championship.
Rashid Al Shamlin from Qatar finished second, edging out Sweden's Angelica Sjoholm.
Palfreyman leads Sjoholm in the championship by just nine points and with two races in Sharjah on December 15-16, another tight finish is likely.