Olbia, Italy: Team Abu Dhabi's Rashid Al Mulla looked unbeatable as he launched his bid for a fourth consecutive world aquabikes title at the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy.
Al Mulla began the defence of his world freestyle crown by claiming an emphatic victory in moto 1 after dominating qualifying for the opening round of this year's UIM-ABP Aquabike Class Pro World Championship in Olbia at the weekend.
Once again the Emirati outperformed his biggest rival, home favourite and reigning European champion Roberto Mariani, with another impressive display of skill and strength.
It was the 25th moto win in a row for the Emirati star, who was aiming to complete a 12th successive overall Grand Prix success as the second freestyle moto brought a climax to three days of spectacular aquabikes action in Italy.
Like Al Mulla, team-mate Emma-Nellie Ortendahl is chasing a fourth successive world crown this season, and the defending Ski Ladies GP1 champion looked set for a brilliant comeback victory in today's third and final moto.
But the Swedish star ended up in the water after a dramatic collision with Jasmiin Ypraus on the eighth of ten laps, as the Estonian rider made a desperate attempt to snatch the lead.
Ortendahl recovered to reach the finish, with Ypraus winning from Swede Jonna Borgstrom, but the final result was in doubt as Grand Prix officials studied video footage of the incident.
It was testing start to the season all round for Ortendahl, who had claimed pole position in Olbia despite completing only two laps because of electrical problems.
After taking second place behind Borgstrom in moto 1, Ortendahl looked set for a repeat finish in moto 2 before more technical problems dropped her to third place as her compatriot completed back-to-back victories.
Regardless of the final outcome in Italy, Ortendahl will be looking to revive her world title hopes at the Grand Prix events to follow in Kuwait in November and Sharjah in December.
It was on Sharjah's Khalid Lagoon that the Swede secured her third world title triumph in December 2019, and she celebrated the achievement hours afterwards by signing a contract to join Team Abu Dhabi.
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