Norwegian crew makes it two in a row

Jotun’s Inge Brigt Aarbakke and Jorn Tandberg are celebrating the team’s first major Class I offshore title in over a decade after winning the Romanian Grand Prix on Sunday. The result also gives them the European Championship by one point taking it from the unlucky Victory 1 crew of Mohammed Al Marri and Nadir Bin Hendi, with Qatar 95 finishing second and Victory 7 coming home third.

Despite a good start, the Mercury V8-powered Jotun trailed Victory 1, the championship leader and pre-race favourite, into the first corner unable to match its extraordinary pace in the opening stages as drivers Al Marri and Bin Hendi opened up an 18 second lead. But on the eighth lap, Jotun stormed ahead as Victory 1, which had slowed to a crawl after breaking a propeller, to take the lead going on to win by 23seconds after completing the 21-lap, 92.27Nm Romanian Grand Prix in a time of 58m 00.65s.

“I cannot describe how this feels,” said Jorn Tandberg. “The win in Arendal was very nice but to win two in a row is even better and beyond our wildest expectations. And now we are the European Champions which is just fantastic for the team.”

For Al Marri and Bin Hendi it was the cruellest outcome, as they saw their European title hopes fade loosing four laps before limping back to the pits. Despite a quick propeller change and a desperate attempt to make up places and points, an eventual seventh place meant they missed out on the title by one point.

“Very sad, upset and disappointed but that’s racing,” said Bin Hendi. “You have your ups as well as downs. Before we broke the propeller the boat was flying and no one would have caught us. Now we have to look to the next race and focus on maintaining our lead in the World Championship.”

In contrast to the disappointment felt in the Victory camp, Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini celebrated an impressive and trouble-free second place in Qatar 95. On its debut race-outing running the Sterling V8 engines, it had moved into third place in the World Championship standings, one slot and three points ahead of their team-mates.

“We made a very bad start and were only in fourth place at the first turn. We then made up some time on 96 and passed them when they made a mistake on their long lap – I don’t know where they were going. We pushed hard for the whole race and to come second with a completely new engine package and have no problems is great news and for sure there is more to come.” said Nicolini.

Despite losing his European crown to Jotun, Victory 7‘s Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al Mehairbi seemed satisfied with their afternoon’s work, making up two places from fifth on the start line to third achieving their fourth podium of the year. It now puts them just ten points behind their team-mates in the race for the World title.

For Qatar 96, after qualifying in third place but dropping down to fifth in the overall points standings, the day was summed up by Sheikh Hassan’s comment – good morning bad afternoon – with Britain’s Steve Curtis simply acknowledging that they just messed up, making some very basic errors. This cost them a very probable podium finish and a chance to narrow the gap behind Championship leaders, Victory 1.

The win for Jotun, its second in as many races, has put its Norwegian crew right back in the fight for the World title, their rivals seeing them as real title contenders. And with Victory 1 dropping points, the championship standings have taken on a completely new complexion with just 21-points separating the top four boats.

Class 1 now heads to Porto Sokhna for the Egyptian Grand Prix, on October 24, one week later than originally scheduled.

ROMANIAN GRAND PRIX – results

1. Jotun 90 – IB Aarbakke (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway)

2. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy)

3. Victory 7 – A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France)

4. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (GB)