Sheikh Hassan and Qatar 96 take sixth place in Qatar GP

QATAR GRAND PRIX, Round 6 of 8
October 23rd-25th, 2003

For immediate release
Saturday, October 25th, 2003


Solid debut performance for new Qatar 96 Team boat; Gjelsten and Curtis victorious

DOHA (Qatar): Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani, the President of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, and his experienced Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini finished sixth overall in the Qatar Grand Prix, which ran off the coast of Doha, this afternoon (Saturday).

The new Qatar 96 Team had finished sixth overall in Friday's Pole Position session - their first competitive outing in the new Michael Peters-designed boat, which was built at the Victory workshops in Dubai. The pair tested it for the first time in Dubai earlier this month.

~We started the race really well,~ said Sheikh Hassan at the finish. ~I was holding third place for the opening two laps, but it was not possible to keep our speed throughout all the race and we slipped back to sixth place. It is a little disappointing to finish sixth, but I suppose I am pleased with the improvements we have made.

~It was fantastic to test the boat for the first time in Dubai last month. But that was nothing compared to the feeling I had when we raced for the first time here, especially as this was my home race in Qatar. There was a fantastic atmosphere in Doha and huge local support. It was an experience I had been looking forward to for some time.~

Sheikh Hassan's throttleman Matteo Nicolini also enjoyed his first experience in the new Qatar 96 boat. The thirty-nine-year-old was the 1997 Class 2 World Champion and won both the 1990 and 1991 Class 3, 6.0-litre Italian Championships. He has over 60 race wins to his name in various classes.

Held over 16 laps of a 6.9 Nm circuit, the race developed into a benefit for Spirit of Norway and crew members - Norway's Bjorn Gjelsten and Britain's Steve Curtis. They had clinched their fifth consecutive Pole Position win of the season and the Pole Position Championship for the third year in a row on Friday. Spirit of Norway eventually finished victorious, from the second-placed Highlander entry and Maritimo in third overall.

~We have learned a lot and keep on learning,~ added Sheikh Hassan. ~Now I can look ahead to the next two races in the Middle East with confidence. There are improvements we can make, but Matteo and I are both looking forward to that challenge.~

The Qatar 96 Team now lies seventh overall in this year's Superfund UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, despite missing the first two races of the season in Portugal and Germany.

The Qatar Grand Prix was organised by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, under the chairmanship of Sheikh Ahmad Bin Ali Al-Thani and the co-ordination of Mohammed Al-Jaidah and Dubai's Saeed Hareb.

Two further races in Fujairah and Dubai will bring both the 2003 Superfund Class 1 World Power Boat Championship and the three-round Middle East series to a close after the Ramadan Holy Festival in December.

Final positions - Qatar GP:

1. Spirit of Norway 57m 47s
2. Highlander 58m 43s
3. Maritimo 58m 56s
4. Victory 7 59m 26s
5. Victory 77 59m 53s
6. Qatar 96 Team 1h 00m 47s


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


Date issued: 25/10/2003

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