C1 Qatar 96 crew maintain championship challenge with third place in Oslo

Scandinavian Grand Prix, August 12th, 2007, round 3 of 8

For immediate release
Sunday, August 12th, 2007


Qatar Team clinch third and fifth as Sheikh Hassan sets up Romanian showdown;
Spirit of Norway leap into WPPA Class 1 title contention with victory in Oslo

OSLO (Norway): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini maintained their serious challenge for both the WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat and WPPA Class 1 European Championship titles with a solid third overall in the Oslo-based Scandinavian Grand Prix on Sunday. The result marked the President of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation's 13th podium finish since he first began Class 1 racing in 2003.

The Qatar 96 crew will now head to the final round of the European series in Romania at the start of September in second place in the championship behind Victory 77 and well placed to clinch a second European title in three years. Qatar team mates Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini began Sunday's Oslo race in fifth position in this year's championship and showed an encouraging improvement with the Mercury Class 1 V8 engines to take fifth overall. They now hold fifth in the title race.

Norwegian Bjorn Rune Gjelsten and British throttleman Steve Curtis trailed championship leaders Arif Said Al-Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez by 26 points at the start of today's Oslo race, but they were the dominant force on Sunday and leapt into overall title contention with a first start-to-finish Grand Prix win of the season to follow up their Edox Pole triumph on Saturday. The Anglo-Norwegian pairing will be looking to the remaining five races of the year to maintain their improved performances.

~We've taken a podium finish again and that is always very nice,~ said Sheikh Hassan. ~We managed to beat Victory 7 and now we can go to Romania with a chance of clinching the European Championship. Spirit of Norway have shown that they are back in contention for the overall title and have hit form at a good time. It's beginning to get quite exciting.

~I was disappointed with the performance in the Pole Position on Saturday. But Matteo did a great job with the set-up for the start of the race today. We are still in with a shout now of the European title after taking third. It is still open. Matteo and I have spoken about that and will try as hard as we can to make some improvements for Romania. We are pleased with the progress shown with Qatar 95. We just need a little more top speed and Abdullah and Luca will be challenging at the top of the leaderboard.~

Sunday's race start was crucial, although both Qatar Team boats had managed to qualify on the front row of the starting grid alongside Spirit of Norway, Victory 7 and Victory 77. Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini made their move early on and by the second lap they had slipped ahead of UAE newcomer Talib Al-Saeed and team mate Nadir Bin Hendi in Victory 7 and slotted into third position behind early race leaders Spirit of Norway and championship leaders Victory 77. Qatar 95 was secure in fifth place.

The leading quintet maintained their momentum through the subsequent laps and, by lap 11, Spirit of Norway continued to head the leading group of Victory 77, Qatar 96, Victory 7 and Qatar 95. The leading five held station through laps 14 and 15, as Gjelsten and Curtis closed in on their first win of the season. Team mates Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Virik Nilsen held sixth position in the second Spirit of Norway boat.

There were no dramas through the 17th lap as the leading five headed into the final four tours of the Oslo fjord course, with five-times World Champion Gjelsten looking to clinch his 31st Class 1 race victory. Gjelsten confirmed a home success, as Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini moved ahead of Victory 7 to take second overall in the championship after three rounds.

Sunday morning's practice session had offered the Qatar Team the last opportunity to arrive at the best set-up for the race. Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini ran for three laps and posted a best time of 2m 50.81s, which was the fifth fastest of the session. Spirit of Norway were again the pace-setters with a single lap of 2m 36.96s, but both Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini set a very encouraging third fastest time behind the Norwegian Jotun boat in a time of 2m 45.62s.

2007 Scandinavian Grand Prix result (unofficial):
1. Bjorn Rune Gjelsten (N)/Steve Curtis (GB) Spirit of Norway 10
2. Arif Said Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Jean-Marc Sanchez (F) Victory 77
3. Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani (QA)/Matteo Nicolini (I) Qatar 96
4. Talib Al-Saeed (UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) Victory 7
5. Abdullah Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Luca Nicolini (I) Qatar 95
6. Tom Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Pal Virik Nilsen (N) Spirit of Norway 20, etc

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: 12/08/2007

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