UIM Aquabike World Championship's second round will take place in Sardinia, Italy. The Sardinia-Ogliastra Grand Prix is expected to see the French stars, Franky Zapata, Jeremy Poret and Julie Bulteau fight to further continue their championship leads. Will anyone be able to stop the seemingly unstoppable French athletes?
Emanuelle Balzer of Portugal pictured in action in the Ski F1 race for the UIM Aquabike World Championship Grand Prix of Qatar
The lineup for the Sardinia-Ogliastra Grand Prix will have a total of 56 competitors from 10 countries competing in Tortoli-Arbatax. More than 50% of the competitors will be intent of fighting and breaking the French streak. Zapata and Bulteau will start as firm favourites in their respective disciplines, Runabout F1 and Ski F1 Ladies, after dominating their season-openers in Qatar in March – both taking maximum points.
Zapata holds a ten-point lead in the standings, and the bad news for his rivals is that the multiple Champion has modified his Mercury-powered Zapata bike, improved reliability and gained horsepower.
Runabout F1 boasts a fleet of 27, but with the UAE’s Bin Hendi missing from the line-up it is defending World Champion Cyrille Lemoine who heads the chasing pack, along with fellow Frenchman Francois Medori and Italian Mattia Fracasso, with Teddy Pons making his first appearance since winning the 14th running of the Karujet in Guadeloupe in April.
Lemoine has also worked on his machine in between Grand Prix, and says that his Sea-Doo Rotax engine package is now stronger and he is confident that he can challenge Zapata for the win.
Defending Champion Bulteau also carries a ten-point cushion into the weekend, and since Qatar has been working on her fitness and is intent on maintaining her unbeaten run on her Rotax-engined Zapata, her biggest challenge likely to come from Italy’s Stefania Balzer and Slovenia’s Pija Sumer.
In Ski Division F1, France’s Jeremy Poret, also running a Rotax-Zapata combination, will have to fend off the attentions of countrymen Jean-Baptiste Botti and Christopher Courtois, and Spaniard Nachette Armillas - just 15-points separating the top four.
In the spectacular Freestyle event two Italian riders, Valerio Calderoni and Roberto Mariani go head-to-head against France’s Romain Stampers and Sebastien Cerniat, with Calderoni, the current Championship leader, the favourite to once again steal the show.
Today saw all competitors take full advantage of an open free practice session to familiarise themselves with the course, the Grand Prix programme proper kicking-off tomorrow (Saturday 28) with official qualifying starting at 10.00hrs and the first heats of the Sardinia-Ogliastra Grand Prix starting at 15.30hrs with Ski F1 Ladies followed by Ski Division F1, Freestyle and Runabout F1.
Saturday 28, May:
10.00/12.45 - Official Qualifying
15.30/16.00 - Ski F1 Ladies, heat one
16.00/16.30 - Ski Division F1, heat one
16.30/17.00 - Freestyle, heat one
17.00/17.30 - Runabout F1
21.00/23.00 - Parallel Slalom Ski, Runabout and Freestyle show
Sunday 29, May:
11.00/13.00 - Warm Up
15.30/16.00 - Ski F1 Ladies, heat two
16.00/16.30 - Ski Division F1, heat two
16.30/17.00 - Freestyle, heat two
17.00/17.30 - Runabout F1, heat two