Spirit of Norway's Bjorn Rune Gjelsten and Steve Curtis produced a commanding performance
Spirit of Norway’s Bjorn Rune Gjelsten and Steve Curtis produced a commanding performance to complete the double in Doha on Saturday, winning ‘Pole’ and the Qatar Grand Prix ahead of their main title rivals, Victory 77 and Qatar 96.
Having set the fastest times in all practice sessions including Friday’s qualifier, Gjelsten and Curtis took full advantage of being in pole position, leading from the start to reach the first turning mark ahead of the chasing pack. From then they controlled the race, extending their lead lap by lap to win the 18 lap. 93.36Nm Qatar Grand Prix by 12 seconds ahead of Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez in Victory 77 and Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al Thani and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96.
“We’ve done the double, it’s great. We had an almost perfect day, made one or two small mistakes but cut through the back markers without losing momentum which was the key especially as we had a lot of pace,” said Gjelsten. “The team has worked hard this winter and made one or two changes. At the end of last year the boat looked tired so we have upgraded a few things. It’s not the same boat. It’s better.”
With Spirit of Norway disappearing off into the distance, the battle for podium honours was fought out between Victory 77, Qatar 96 and King of Shaves. The three held station before Qatar 96 peeled off to take its mandatory long laps, elevating King of Shaves to third. By the 12th lap the leading posse had all completed their long laps with the running order restored and Victory 77 lying second.
“I am very pleased with the result – we just have to work a little on our set-up. We saw that we are fairly close to Spirit and we can catch them, so we will work on it. The start was good but Spirit got their nose in front, took advantage and that was that.” said Jean Marc, dedicating the result to Steve Lawrence, a Victory Mechanic and former crew Chief of Victory 7 who is leaving the team.
After a troublesome two-day build-up, Sheikh Hassan was happy with third spot in Qatar 96.
“After all the difficulty with the engines we are very pleased with the result. We didn’t want to take any risks so we took it easy to the first turn. We knew Victory 77 would get ahead of us but we didn’t want a repeat of last year!” he said. “We took our long laps early as we wanted them out of the way in case we had engine trouble later, but the engines ran very smoothly and I’m very pleased with their performance.”
After taking second spot in Pole Position, King of Shaves new partnership of Chris Parsonage and James Sheppard continued to impress. They finished in a very strong fourth slot ahead of another impressive debut partnership of Nader Bin Hindi and Ahmed Al Suwaidi in Victory 7.
Sixth place went to Qatar 95 with Ceramiche Flaminia’s Pino Chillocci and Mauro Esperto producing a very gutsy performance to take seventh and collect valuable points after crashing during Pole Position.
QATAR GRAND PRIX – results
1 Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 20pts
2. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 15pts
3. Qatar 96 – Al Thani/Nicolini 12pts
4. King of Shaves – Sheppard/Parsonage 9pts
5. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi/Hendi 7pts
6. Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti/Di Biase 5pts
7. Ceramiche Flaminia – Chillocci/Esperto 4pts