C1 Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al Thani seals podium finish in Greek Grand Prix

Greek Grand Prix, Palaio Faliro-Athens - June 10th, round 1 of 8

For immediate release
Sunday, June 10th, 2007


Debut Class 1 victory falls to rookie Al-Zafeen in Victory 77;
Al-Sulaiti and Nicolini seal solid fourth place in Qatar 95

PALAIO FALIRO (Greece): The Qatar Team began this year’s WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship campaign by recording excellent third and fourth places in a fascinating Greek Grand Prix in Palaio-Faliro Bay on Sunday.

His Excellency Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Italian Matteo Nicolini clinched third overall and the final podium place in Qatar 96, while Doha-based team mate Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and new partner Luca Nicolini were fourth. The dramatic race, which took place under the shadow of the historic Acropolis, was won by Class 1 newcomer Arif Said Al-Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez in Victory 77.

Eleven powerful Class One boats roared into action in front of a curious Greek crowd this afternoon and the scream of high-revving Sterling V8, Lamborghini V12, Victory V12 and Skema V12 engines signalled that the new Class One racing season had fired into life with a vengeance.

Sheikh Hassan and Italian throttleman Nicolini began today’s race in fourth position, behind the Norwegian Jotun boat, crewed by Christian Zaborowski and Jorn Tanberg, the Spirit of Norway boat - which clinched the title last year – and Victory 7. The latter was crewed by the UAE’s Ahmed Al-Suwaidi and Nadir Bin Hendi. Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini started fifth following yesterday’s practice session to determine the race starting order.

“I was not too unhappy to start from fourth place,” said Sheikh Hassan, who is also the President of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF). “The start is always important, but this is a fast race course and the emphasis is on acceleration and not necessarily top speed.”

Al-Suwaidi and Bin Hendi were fast out of the blocks and edged ahead of a hard-pushing Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis in Spirit of Norway, with their Victory 77 team mates in close attendance. It was nip and tuck over the opening laps, as the leaders jostled for clear water and a traffic-free racing line. But the Spirit of Norway crew were soon in trouble and Victory 77 edged into second place, as the Norwegian Jotun crew also hit problems.

After eight laps the Victory duo maintained their advantage, with Qatar 96 and Qatar 95 in close attendance in third and fourth places. Foresti & Suardi, Spirit of Norway and SeveneleveN trailed in their wake as the race neared its mid-point.

By lap 11, Victory 77 had displaced Victory 7 at the head of the field and Sheikh Hassan and Abdullah Al-Sulaiti were locked in third and fourth places in 96 and 95. Both Qatar crews were chasing that final podium place in what was developing into a Middle East-only race between the four top teams from the UAE and Qatar.

After 15 laps the leading boats maintained their positions, but the Spirit of Norway crew of Gjelsten and Curtis had begun a determined fight back in a bid to earn championship points. The Foresti & Suardi crew were holding the Anglo-Norwegian pairing off in fifth place, with SeveneleveN seventh. Pole winners Jotun had already fallen by the wayside.

The leading quartet held station over the subsequent four laps and there were no changes to the running order over the final nail biting tours, as UAE newcomer Arif Said Al-Zafeen took an historic debut win with the experienced Jean-Marc Sanchez in Victory 77. Behind Victory 7, both Qatar boats made a solid start to their 2007 campaign with excellent third and fourth places.

Teams took advantage of the final practice session on Sunday morning to fine-tune their boats before the race began at 17.00hrs. Spirit of Norway ran for one lap and set the quickest time of 2m 28.75s, with Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker in second place with a best lap of 2m 30.18s in Negotiator. Qatar 96 ran for one lap, recording a fourth-placed time of 2m 36.50s. Qatar 95 ran for four laps and recorded a sixth-best time of 2m 42.37s, although Al-Sulaiti admitted it would take time to adjust to the balance and performance of the new engine configuration in the V8-engined hull.

“I tried a new set-up this morning during our practice, but I was not happy with the performance,” admitted Sheikh Hassan. “The wind dropped a little and it was calmer, but we decided to revert to the set-up we used during Saturday’s qualifying practice session for the race. It looked as though the wind was going to get up a little in any case.”

2007 WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship – Greek Grand Prix results (unofficial)

1. Arif Said Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Jean-Marc Sanchez (F) Victory 77
2. Ahmed Al-Suwaidi (UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Victory 7
3. Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani (QA)/Matteo Nicolini (I) Qatar 96
4. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Luca Nicolini (I) Qatar 95
5. Bjorn Rune Gjelsten (N)/Steve Curtis (GB) Spirit of Norway 10
6. Tomaso Polli (I)/Nicola Giorgi (I) SeveneleveN 18


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: 10/06/2007

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