C1 Spirit of Norway edges out Qatar 96 in Doha thriller

Middle East Grand Prix, round 2 – Thursday, May 4th, 2006

For immediate release
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006


Victory 77 finishes in a close third place;
King of Shaves takes fourth; Qatar 95 in engine trouble

DOHA (Qatar): Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis maintained their perfect start to the new season by clinching a dramatic last-gasp victory in the Pole Position competition at the Middle East Grand Prix, round two of this year’s UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship in Doha Bay, today (Wednesday).

His Excellency Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini finished the Pole Position race in second position in Qatar 96, with Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al-Marri completing the podium places in Victory 77.

In one of the closest Pole Position competitions for many years, the Norwegian Jotun boat set an early sub-three minute target time of 2m 57.34s, before this was beaten by Chris Parsonage and James Sheppard with a time of 2m 54.70s in King of Shaves. With only three boats left to run, the British crew were eyeing a podium finish, but a resurgent Qatar 96 crew found some magical form when it mattered and posted a best time of 2m 52.469s.

Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al-Marri failed to beat the Qatar Team’s time after their first run of 2m 53.98s in Victory 77, but appeared to be heading towards a faster time in the closing few hundred metres of their final lap, when they were forced to slow down with mechanical problems. This paved the way for the defending champions to take to the water in Spirit of Norway. As the clock edged down, it seemed as though Qatar 96 had done enough to take Pole Position on home waters, but Curtis and Gjelsten stopped the clock in 2m 51.92s to take maximum points and Pole for Friday’s Grand Prix in a dramatic finale at an average speed of 199.33 km/h.

“I am delighted that we found that extra pace this afternoon,” said second-placed Sheikh Hassan. “Maybe we ate some magic dust at lunchtime. It was disappointing to lose out for the win, but the competitiveness of our boat gives us great confidence for Thursday.”

”We used the same set up as the last race and the plan was to give it 110% from the start today,” said Sheikh Hassan, who leapt up to fourth in the Pole Position Championship. “We had nothing to lose. We had a meeting this morning with the UIM and representatives of other teams and we have reached a decision concerning the future of our Mercury engines, which everyone seems to be in agreement with. The fixed maximum power outputs will be determined after the next race meeting in Spain, so that we are given the opportunity to assess the potential of the engines in rougher waters.”

Qatar team mates Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Lino Di Biase set a disappointing 10th fastest time. “The engines have been driving us crazy,” admitted Al-Sulaiti, driver of Qatar 95. “We have been trying to get to the bottom of the problems for two days. We checked all the mechanical and electrical parts and even the fuel filter, but we could not cure the problem. The plan today was to do a courtesy pole lap and then change both the engines overnight before the main race on Thursday.”

Victory 7 and Jotun were the first boats out in calm waters for the morning’s two-hour practice session, with Jotun posting an impressive 2m 56.922s lap compared to a fastest of 3m 02.110 for their Dubai-based rivals. Qatar 95 returned to the pits with engine problems after recording 3m 06.938s, the crew of Ceramiche Flaminia were encouraged by a 3m 00.468s tour, but it was again left to Steve Curtis and Bjorn Gjelsten to steal the show with a 2m 54.29s lap.

Victory 77 came mightily close to upstaging the defending champions with two competitive laps of 2m 56.125s and 2m 55.187s near the end of the session. The Qatar 96 team decided against taking to the water during the morning’s session. “We discovered a slight problem with one of the engines,” admitted Nicolini. “It was not revving as high as the other one and we wanted to carry out some tests to see what the problem was.”

Tomorrow (Thursday) sees the running of the Middle East Grand Prix, round two of this year’s UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship. In Doha Bay. The day will begin with a two-hour official practice session from 09.00 hrs. The Middle East Grand Prix starts at 14.30 hrs and will be followed by the official prize giving presentation on the Corniche, near the Asian Games Mascot. The race will be held over a start lap of 3.92 Nm, 15 timed laps of the short course and two long laps of 5.74 Nm in a total race distance of 92.35 Nm.

Middle East Grand Prix - Pole Position results–
1. Spirit of Norway 10 (Gjelsten (N)/Curtis (GB)) 2m 51.92s
2. Qatar 96 (Al-Thani (QA)/Nicolini (I)) 2m 52.46s
3. Victory 77 (Al-Marri (UAE)/Sanchez (F)) 2m 53.98s
4. King of Shaves 50 (Parsonage (GB)/Sheppard(GB)) 2m 54.70s
5. Jotun 90 (Tandberg (N)/Zaborowski (N)) 2m 57.34s
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 (Monavoci (I)/Cirilli (E)) 3m 00.92s
7. Victory 7 (Bin Hindi (UAE)/Al-Suwaidi (UAE)) 3m 01.85s
8. Seveneleven 9 (Giorgi (I)/Nilsen (N)) 3m 20.20s
9. Ceramiche Flaminia 2 (Chillocci (I)/Esperto (I)) 3m 22.42s
10. Qatar 95 (Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Di Biase (I)) 3m 24.64s

Pole Position Championship positions after round 2:
1. Spirit of Norway 40 pts
2. King of Shaves 24 pts
2. Victory 77 21 pts
4. Qatar 96 20 pts
5. Jotun 19 pts
6. Foresti & Suardi 12 pts
7. Victory 7 8 pts
8. Seveneleven 6 pts
9. Qatar 95 3 pts
9. Ceramiche Flaminia 2 pts


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


Date issued: 03/05/2006

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