Teams faced strong winds and rough seas in today’s first practice, with Qatar 95 posting the fastest time of the session, ahead of Victory 1 and Qatar 96. And whilst it was the expected teams setting the pace, there were impressive showings by Negotiator and Foresti & Suardi.
Sheikh Hassan stated at last night’s press conference that anything less than 20 points in Saturday’s Egyptian Grand Prix would be unacceptable, but after today’s practice it is clear that it will be his team-mates, Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini who pose one of the biggest threats.
Al-Sulaiti and Nicolini immediately backed up their second place last time out in Romania with the fastest time of the day, posting 3m 16.75s around the 4.50Nm lap, two seconds quicker than Championship leaders, Victory 1 and four seconds quicker than Qatar 96. 'We went out for our first run with a new system to help balance the boat, but this didn’t work so well and we took it out. We went again and got a good time immediately.' said Nicolini. 'The conditions are OK, not as rough as last year but they can change very quickly here. For sure it will not be a flat race on Saturday.'
But Qatar 96’s Steve Curtis, the winner here in Porto Marina last year, was not phased by the pace of his team-mates. 'It was a little bumpy but nothing like last year. We went out to get a feel for the course, ran a limited set-up, put in a couple of laps and called it a day.' he said. 'Matteo did a good time but he said it flattened out a little and we also had to go around Victory 7 on one of our laps. But our time was still good. I didn’t want to push it today and I’d like to see it a little rougher. But we’ll be right up there in the race.'
Championship leaders, Mohammed Al Marri and Nadir Bin Hendi looked very comfortable in Victory 1 in the rough conditions and also used the session to ease themselves into the weekend, coming in after just three laps after going second quickest, with Victory 7’s Jean-Marc Sanchez also not pushing, giving Abdullah Al Mehairbi a chance to learn the course with the pair racing in rough seas together for the first time. 'The conditions were not too bad but the wind was a little tricky. Last year we had waves well over eight feet and a top speed of around 100mph, so it’s going to be a completely different race to what we have seen so far this year. It’s going to be an eye-opener for Abdullah as this is his rookie season and he hasn’t competed in water like this before.'
Chris Parsonage, racing with new throttleman, Billy Moore, making his Class 1 debut, marked his return after missing the last four races with an impressive fourth fastest on the day in Negotiator. 'The boat ran well. This is a new boat to me and this was my first time out with Mr Parsonage, so we took a couple of laps to get a feel for the boat and each other and are pretty pleased with the time.' said Moore. 'Tomorrow I think we will try one or two things, try to pick the pace up a little and see what happens from there.'
Foresti & Suardi’s Giampaolo Montavoci and Kolbjorn Selmer also impressed, posting the fifth best time in conditions that suit both Montavoci and the boat. 'I am happy with today’s time but I remember last year here in Egypt and I don’t want to repeat what happened.' said Montavoci. 'We won’t push too hard in practice or even in qualifying, but for sure in the race.'
With Domenico Cirilli unable to race this weekend, Duemme Broker fielded two scratch pairings, with Giovanni Carpitella returning to Class 1 action to team up with Sergio Carrasco in the team’s new boat, Spirit of Spain, and Ahmed Al Suwaidi coming back to partner Class 1 newcomer, Mohammed Abdelkader Ahmed, in Roscioli Hotels Roma. Despite being marginally outpaced by their sister-boat, Carrasco was pleased with the day’s results. 'It is a new boat and a new partner for me so we took things easy. I have to get a feel for the boat, but Giovanni and I got on very well for our first time.'
But their was disappointment for SeveneleveN crew, Giorgio Manuzzi and Nicola Giorgi, when an electrical problem cut short their session, and frustration for Jotun’s Inge Brigt Aarbakke and Jorn Tandberg, winners of the last two races, who were sidelined with a technical problem and failed to go out on the water. First practice times:
1. Qatar 95 - A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) – 03.16,75
2. Victory 1 - M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 03.18,29
3. Qatar 96 - H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 03.20,73
4. Negotiator 50 - C Parsonage (England) / W Moore (USA) – 03.22,62
5. Foresti & Suardi 8 - K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – 03.24,25
6. Victory 7 - A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 03.25,56
7. Roscioli Hotels Roma 60 - M Abdelkader (Spain) / A Al Suwaidi (UAE) – 03.46,12
8. Spirit of Spain 88 - S Carrasco (Spain) / G Carpitella (Italy) – 03.46,67
9. SeveneleveN 18 - G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – 03.52,92
Jotun 90 - IB Aarbakke (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) – dns