Story & Photos: Aquabike Press

    * Botti simply brilliant as he takes sweet revenge for heat 1 DQ with sensational win in heat 2

    * Nac Florjancic makes it two wins out of two over Rok

    Sunday, 24 May, CASTRO (Italy): Austria’s Kevin Reiterer and Swedens’s Emma-Nellie Ortendhal both celebrated their maiden heat and GP wins in the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship to take overall victory in the Ski GP1 categories at the Grand Prix of Italy.

    In Runabout GP1 the overall Grand Prix win went to the UAE’s Khalifa Belselah, but it was his rival Jean-Baptiste Botti who grabbed the headlines, simply destroying the best of a world class field after starting from last place to win by a staggering 50.52 seconds.

    It was sweet revenge for the 28-year-old from Porto Vecchio, Corsica, who earlier in the day was stripped of his heat 1 win following a protest by Belselah who was subsequently handed the win.

    Starting from the back of the third row and 21-rider field, Botti was up to sixth by the end of lap 1 and on a mission to chase down the lead trio of Belselah, Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq and Thamer Al Darwish.

    Two laps later he scythed his way past his countrymen Teddy Pons and Francois Medori to move into third, then overhauling Abdulrazzaq and Al Darwish, hitting the front at the end of lap four after an audacious pass on Belselah and gesturing to him to catch him as he went by.

    From that point on it was race over as Botti delivered an absolute masterclass to take his first ‘official’ win in the Championship in the Runabout category and making his feelings absolutely clear, slowing down before the finish line as he looked around for the rest of the field before taking the chequered flag. “It was very difficult especially starting in line 3. I just had to give it all I had from the start.” said Botti. “I was still am very unhappy to be disqualified and this was just to show someone a lesson.”

    After dropping to third behind Belselah on lap 4, Abdulrazzaq gave chase and kept the pressure on, finally regaining the place on lap 14 of 16 to secure second overall, third overall going to Thamer Al Darwish, who followed up his fourth in heat 1 with sixth place. “It is great to be here in Castro and get the biggest win of my career,” said Khalifa Belselah. “It was a difficult race, tricky conditions and what was important was to get to the end and take the overall win.”

    Asked if there was any bad feeling between him and Botti, he said. “Between me and Botti or any other rider I don’t have bad feelings. We are all here for one thing, winning, and what happens in the race happens in the race. Outside is something different.”

    Jeremy Perez made a late charge and moved from ninth at the end of lap one, first passing Medori, a tiring Al Darwish and then Pons to take fourth.

    In Ski Ladies 16-year-old Emma-Nellie Ortendahl from Alvanger led heat 2 from start-to-finish to win comfortably from tour newcomer Portugal’s Beatrix Curtinhal, with defending World Champion Jennifer Menard finishing in third.

    With heat 1 winner Estelle Poret relegated to the second row after changing her bike, Ortendahl took full advantage of starting from P1, hitting the front and maintaining a comfortable advantage throughout to take a memorable victory for Sweden. “I feel really good but I am just so exhausted but so thrilled and happy,” said Ortendahl. “It was a difficult weekend with so many different conditions but to win you have to be able to race in all conditions.”

    Kylie Ellmers, who seemed to spend most of the weekend looking to solve an issue with her bike, was again rewarded with a fourth place, ahead of a spirited drive by [Estelle] Poret from the back into fifth to claim second overall ahead of Menard.

    In the men’s division Reiterer, 22, from Wiener Neustadt had to work a lot harder for his win and title, trailing heat 1 winner Mickael Poret for seven of nine laps before pulling a brilliant pass at the start of the penultimate lap to hit the front and go on to take the victory, the two finishing equal on points, Reiterer’s heat 2 win giving him the title.

    On lap 3 it looked as though the young Austrian might have blown his chances as he closed in on Poret, dropping the bike and losing time before clambering back on board and giving chase again and then gaining the upper hand. “I thought with the bike I was using I wouldn’t be able to do this but the conditions helped and I just pushed whenever I could,” he said. “When I lost the bike it just showed that I was on the limit. I recovered pretty quickly and then just made sure I was consistent and made no more mistakes.”

    Jeremy Poret picked up three places after starting down in sixth following his tumble in heat 1, but the best performance went to Spain’s Nacho Armillas driving up and through the field from last place to finish in fourth ahead of Alex Barret, whose fourth in heat 1 and fifth put him third overall.

    Once again as is the norm, the crowds gathered in their thousands, finding any spare rock that was free, to watch and applaud the Freestylers, and if Nac Florjancic’s win in Qatar was a bit of a surprise to some, he backed it up by toppling World Champion and elder brother Rok for the second time, scoring 88 points to Rok’s 84 and extending his overall lead in the Championship standings, Roberto Mariani and Alberto Camerlengo finishing third and fourth.

    The UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship now heads to Liuzhou in China for round 3 in October; Khalifa Belselah leads the title race in Runabout, Jeremy Poret in Ski and in Ski Ladies 16-year-old Emma-Nellie Ortendhal is the one to chase in the title race.



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