C1 Qatar 96 takes seventh place in Dubai Grand Prix

DUBAI GRAND PRIX, December 9th, 2005 - round 7 of 7

For immediate release
Friday, December 9th, 2005


Spirit of Norway hangs on by a thread to retain world title;
Thrilling GP win for Victory 77 on home Grand Prix;

DOHA (Qatar): Qatar Team Principal His Excellency Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini started from the back of the pack and eventually finished seventh overall in a thrilling Dubai Grand Prix, final round of this year's UIM Class 1 World Power Boat Championship, which took place off the coast of the Dubai International Marine Club, today (Friday).

The Anglo-Norwegian pairing of Steve Curtis and Bard Eker endured a very subdued performance to clinch the UIM Class 1 World Championship title in Spirit of Norway, while Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al-Marri won their second race of the year in Victory 77 to confirm the runner-up spot in the championship after a superb tactical race.

After suffering an engine overheating problem during Thursday's Pole Position competition, Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini, the current UIM Class 1 European champions, were forced to replace the right-hand engine before the start of this afternoon's race. They, therefore, had the added challenge of racing through the dirty water of the leading boats to get on track with Pole pace setters Jotun, Victory 77 and Spirit of Norway.

In calm conditions, Qatar 96 enjoyed a wonderful start and the race quickly developed into a nail-biting battle between Victory 77 and a resurgent Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini, with Sheikh Hassan racing Mercury engines for the first time. The pair were evenly matched for the first six laps, with Jotun and GFN Gibellato in close contention. Spirit of Norway trailed in their wake, but was still in a points-scoring position and that would be sufficient to give Steve Curtis a seventh title and team owner Bard Eker his first triumph.

The Qatar Team's strategy included taking the long lap on lap seven and this dropped Qatar 96 to fourth overall. Victory 77 opted for the long lap two circuits later and a gripping finale ensued with Victory 77 slipping to second overall behind the flying Jotun team, which took its long lap soon after.

Qatar 96 stopped within minutes for a short time with an engine problem and slipped down the leaderboard to seventh place, while both second-placed Jotun and a slowing Spirit of Norway struggled nervously to the finish with mechanical problems in a thrilling climax to the year's racing. The Negotiator boat of Chris Parsonage and Randy Scism held off Victory 7 to take the final podium place.

~I wasn't unduly concerned about starting from the back of the field,~ said Sheikh Hassan, who confirmed third place for Qatar 96 in the overall championship. ~When we have started from the back in the past, we have done well. The engine problem was a set-back, but we had nothing to lose and decided to race our own race today. It was going so well for much of the race and then we had the problem.~

The Victory 77 crew of Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al-Marri began today's race with a five-point lead over Sheikh Hassan's Michael Peters-designed hull and trailed Spirit of Norway by 17.5 points. But this dramatic win for Victory 77 on home waters failed to detract from a championship-clinching performance for the triumphant Spirit of Norway team.

The Qatar 96 Team had suffered a major set-back during the Pole Position competition on Thursday, when they were forced into the pits after one lap with an engine problem. They had only posted one slow time and were therefore forced to start at the rear of the pack for today's Grand Prix.

~We noticed that an engine alarm came on for the right engine during the Pole lap and we had no option but to pit,~ said Sheikh Hassan. ~We thought the problem was down to over-revving or overheating and tested the engines again during the official practice this morning. But there was again a problem with the right-hand Mercury engine and we decided to replace it before the race.~

The Jotun boat took its first Pole win of the season and those 20 points pushed Norwegians Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski above Qatar 96 into third place in the final Pole Position Championship. Spirit of Norway had already clinched the Pole title with 132 points, from six outright wins and a third place on Thursday. Jotun amassed 82 points during the season and Thursday's problems dropped Qatar 96 to third with 77 points.


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Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153 and E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases)


Date issued: 09/12/2005

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