*Paoletti caps perfect day with Match Race win after going quickest in qualifying
Tuesday, 11 March, DOHA (Qatar): Team Italy grabbed the early lead in the UIM Nations Cup with Stefano Paoletti winning today’s Match Race in a nail-biting final against Russia’s Kostantin Ustinov, and teammate Marco Gambi taking fourth place after being narrowly beaten by Belarus’ Roman Vandyshev.
The result puts Italy at the top of the standings on 43 points ahead of Russia on 36 points with Belarus in third spot on 35.
The win in the Match Race, run on an alternate three pin course with one short and one long leg, capped a perfect day for the 29 year-old from Miane, who posted the fastest time in official qualifying and was the only driver to break the 50-second mark, and will start the first of tomorrow’s two 20-minute sprint races in pole position.
The Italians route to the final saw him cruise past last year’s Match Race winner, Team Qatar’s Khalid Al Kuwari, and then outgun Belarus’ Roman Vandyshev in the semi-final.
Russia’s Kostantin Ustinov battled his way to the final beating Malaysia’s Mohammad Bin Kadri and Italy’s Gambi in the tightest of semi-finals, narrowly winning the deciding third leg shoot-out.
The final went down to the wire with the two youngest drivers in the Nations Cup producing a spectacular race off, Paoletti winning heat 1 Ustinov hitting back to take heat 2 and force a decider, with the Italian holding his nerve on the final run to take the win.
Earlier in the day strong winds and choppy seas played havoc with the race schedule forcing officials to abandon the one hour official qualifying session after just 15 minutes.
A revised programme saw the teams back out on the water in the afternoon for a reduced but what proved to be a drama-filled 30 minute session with Paoletti posting the fastest time of 49.72s, Malaysia’s Alffian Bin Kadri barrel-rolling 20 minutes into the session bringing out the yellow flag and Lebanon’s Lebos Chaguri then going over immediately after the restart at the same corner, bringing out the chequered flag to close the session minutes early.
Despite his accident Malaysia’s Alffian Bin Kadri made it back out onto the water for the start of the Match Race but went out in the first round to Marco Gambi. Lebos Chaguri was less fortunate the damage to his boat meant the end of his Nations Cup weekend.
Team Belarus went second and third quickest with Andrey Ovchinnikov edging his teammate Roman Vandyshev by a tenth of a second, with the younger of the Kadri brothers Mohammad in fifth ahead of Qatar’s Al Kuwari and brother Alffian [Bin Kadri].
Teams are back out on the water in the morning for a one hour free practice session at 10.00hrs (local) before the decisive two Sprint Races at 13.30hrs and 15.30hrs.
Khalid Al Kuwari
Mohammad Affendey bin Kadri
Alffian Bin Kadri