|Qatar 96 has had its strongest first half-season since Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini teamed up in 2003. Four consecutive podiums putting them second in the title race, 19 points behind Victory 77, but Sheikh Hassan knows they face a tough challenge if they are to lift the title. |
"77 is very strong. We need to somehow out-perform it for us to get a shot at the title, and they need to fall back in one or two races, which at this point looks unlikely," he said. "They have been very consistent and reliable, but we will work on keeping the pressure on them so we can get a chance."
"It may sound crazy, but in the last race we drove the boat completely differently and that resulted in a very close fight with 77, and if we drive even better we can get more out of the boat and close the gap further, and maybe force them into making a mistake."
What makes the performance of Qatar 96 even more impressive is the fact that the team decided at the eleventh hour to change their overall set-up - reverting from the V8 back to the V12. "As everyone knows we decided very late to change our engine package and start with a 'new' set-up and that made us go back to the drawing board and rework the boat to accommodate the new package," said Sheikh Hassan. "But the team was very determined to create a very competitive package from the start and one that would enable us to develop and improve during the season. And I am very happy with what the team has done to have the boat on the podium in all four races so far."
Asked if he was satisfied with the performances of Qatar 95 and the development of the V8? "Yes I am. I know where we are short, and we will be working on these areas it to improve performance as I do feel that the V8 can get close to the V12 - it's only a matter of time," he said. "What we are doing on 95 should have been done during the winter period, but as every one knows, the engine spec came out some time in March which made it very difficult to get 95 with the top boats, but you will see it there soon."