Spirit of Norway faces stiff competition despite 17 point lead

Spirit of Norway lead the title race by 17 points, but it’s crew have not had it all their own way this season by any means. The defending world champions will line up in Plymouth on Sunday, 6 August for the Honda British Grand Prix, round five of the UIM Class 1 world championship, knowing that the list of would-be challengers is growing race by race.

At the season mid-point with four races run, the championship is developing into one of the most unpredictable and compelling for many years, with five boats taking either pole position and/or race wins so far. Spirit of Norway and King of Shaves, running the Lamborghini-Skema V12 and Foresti&Suardi-Roscioli Hotels with the Lamborghini-Scam V12 have set the pace in qualifying to grab pole position and Spirit, with Qatar 95 and Jotun, both running the Mercury Class 1 V8, taking race wins.

So trying to predict a winner in Plymouth is almost impossible with any one of six, possibly seven boats capable of making the podium on their day, given the right conditions. Spirit of Norway, second last time out, will be looking to re-establish their authority and extend their overall lead as Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis go in search of their 29th grand prix win together and Spirit’s third in Plymouth. Behind them, just 18 points separate the next five boats. After two races without a podium for the Qatar Team, Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini, Qatar 96, in second place are well aware that they and team-mates Abdulla Al-Sulaiti and Lino di Biase in Qatar 95 must start to reduce the points’ gap and a double podium finish is a given if they are to stay in contention for the title.

After failing to post points in the first race of the season, Jotun’s Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski are clearly on a roll and full of confidence, and after two consecutive podium finishes and their maiden win in Arendal, are now up into third place and very much in the championship hunt. The Victory Team has a good record in Plymouth, winning three times in five years but Victory 77’s Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez still have some work to do to get their challenge fully back on track, although they have rekindled their championship aspirations with their first podium in two races in Norway to move into fourth place, whilst their team-mates Nadir bin Hendi and Ahmed Al Suwaidi in Victory 7 continue to demonstrate their reliability, scoring points in each race.

Giampaolo Montavoci and Domenico Cirilli, currently sixth overall in Foresti&Suardi-Roscioli Hotels have proved that in the rough they can produce the results, so will be relying on the unpredictable Plymouth weather to provide the conditions they need if they are to repeat their success of earlier in the season. For King of Shaves reliability will be the main concern. Chris Parsonage and James Sheppard have shown on more than one occasion they are capable of challenging the front runners, but must now harness the potential they clearly have and hold it together for the full race distance. But if history is to repeat itself? – Qatar 95 winning in Doha and Jotun winning in Arendal – then just possibly King of Shaves can produce something special in front of their home crowd in Plymouth. Giuseppe Chillocci’s run of points scoring finishes ended in Norway with Ceramiche Flaminia failing to start, leaving Class 1 newcomer Pertti Leppala to reflect on a frustrating debut – and if SeveneleveN’s Nicola Giorgi and Pal Nilsen need one thing, it is some luck to go their way for a change; both outfits will be hoping for a trouble-free weekend and the chance to put some more laps under their belts and more points on the board.

Race distance: 18 laps, 97.75Nm

Start lap 5.33Nm 16 x 5.25Nm laps 1 x Long lap 8.42 Nm

First held: 2001

2005 Race winners: B Eker/S Curtis – Spirit of Norway

2004 Race winners: A Nasser/A Al Qama – Victory 7

2003 Race winners: A Al Tayer/A Al Qama – Victory 7

2002 Race winners: B R Gjelsten/S Curtis – Spirit of Norway

2001 Race winners: M Al Marri/S Al Tayer – Victory 77

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS – after 4 rounds

1. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) 68pts

2. Qatar 96 – Al Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) 51pts

3. Jotun – Tandberg (NOR)/Zaborowski (NOR) 48pts

4. Victory 77 – Al Marri (UAE)/Sanchez (FR) 42pts

5. Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti (QAT)/Di Biase (ITA) 36pts

6. Foresti & Suardi-Roscioli Hotels – Montavoci (ITA)/Cirilli (ESP) 33pts

7. Victory 7 – Hendi (UAE)/Al Suwaidi (UAE) 29pts

8. King of Shaves – Parsonage (GB)/Sheppard (GB) 22pts

9. Ceramiche Flaminia – Chillocci (ITA)/Esperto (ITA) 18pts

10. SeveneleveN – Giorgi (ITA)/Nilsen (NOR) 9pts

(Championship points include bonus points allocated to teams for running engines for two consecutive races – one point, per engine, per race)