*French riders dominate heats in Ski and Runabout
*World Champion Abdulrazzaq black-flagged
Friday, 7 March, DOHA (Qatar): French riders dominated a spectacular afternoon of racing in heats 1 of the Grand Prix of Qatar on Doha Bay, with Jeremy Poret and Cyrille Lemoine completing the win double in Ski and Runabout GP1 and Jennifer Menard taking maximum points in the Ladies division.
But it was another disastrous afternoon on Doha Bay for Runabout’s defending World Champion and pole-sitter Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq who, for the second year in a row, was black-flagged immediately after the start for going the wrong way around the start lap. “I cannot believe it has happened again,” he said. “There was a miscommunication between me and officials and I misunderstood what they said. It happens. Tomorrow I will just have to make up for it and get maximum points.”
The much anticipated battle for supremacy between Europe and America in Ski, with Jeremy Poret taking on Chris MacClugage, delivered a closely-fought and race-long tussle with France’s double World Champion Poret striking the first blow and taking heat 1 honours.
It was MacClugage who led the front line of five and 18-rider field to grab the early advantage, stealing past pole-sitter Poret to lead by almost three seconds at the end of lap one. But the American’s lead was short-lived with Poret closing the gap and pulling a great inside pass on his US rival at the tight right-hander at the end of lap 3.
Poret held his nerve for the remaining seven laps, despite MacClugage closing to within under two seconds on the penultimate lap of 10, to celebrate his return to the UIM-ABP tour and take the chequered flag and the first win and of the season. “I couldn’t have hoped for better,” said Poret. “For me it was almost a perfect race, I know I can make a better start but was very happy with the over take to get the lead.”
Despite filling the runners-up slot for the second time in two outings, MacClugage was optimistic he can turn things around in heat 2. “We struggled a little with the set-up in the choppy waters. Straight line speed was ok but lost some balance in the turns,” he said. “So I didn’t feel that confident and set a pace I was comfortable with. We will make some changes tomorrow. I was close to him today and I feel if I want to make a charge I can. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Behind the leaders Portugal’s Tiago Sousa had to work hard throughout the race to keep Spain’s Nacho Armillas behind him, the two separated by no more than four seconds, with 2013 Abu Dhabi GP winner Ludo Caumont moving up from the back of the pack to grab fifth place to finish some distance clear of defending World Champion Mickael Poret.
It was a frustrating season-opener for Alberto Monti who parted company with his bike on the run to the first turn, but the Italian recovered well to claw his way back up through the field to eventually finish ninth to salvage valuable points.
Jennifer Menard produced a credible performance to finish just outside the top ten to grab maximum points in the Ladies division finishing well ahead of the youngest rider on the water, 17 year-old Estelle Poret and Marta Sorrentino.
Heat 1 of Runabout saw a titanic race-long duel between Cyrille Lemoine, Mohammed Al Haidus and Mattia Fracasso, the trio trading places from the start with Lemoine hitting the front on lap 11 of 13 to repeat his heat 1 win of last year in Doha.
It was the Italian Fracasso who made the better start moving up from fifth passing both Lemoine and Al Haidus to hit the front and lead at the end of lap 1, Al Haidus in turn getting the jump on Lemoine, but the Frenchmen made his move on lap four moving into second place and then set about chasing down the leader.
On lap 11 Lemoine caught and passed a tiring Fracasso, who then momentarily lost power when his ignition key came out, allowing Qatar’s Al Haidus through to follow race winner Lemoine home in second. “To win from starting third is a good result,” said Lemoine. “I don’t have my new bike yet and was on the one I used in Abu Dhabi so was not going to push too hard but then I saw a chance to win and I took it.”