Gjelsten and Curtis handle rough conditions ahead of Egyptian Grand Prix

Spirit of Norway’s Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis overcame the roughest conditions of the season so far to produce an extraordinary lap in Friday’s qualifying session for Saturday’s Egyptian Grand Prix, round five of the Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, making it their fourth pole win of the season.

With the teams facing extreme conditions that forced the race officials to cancel the morning’s practice session and then shorten the course, Gjelsten and Curtis posted a time that left their rivals bewildered.

But for Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi in Foresti & Suardi, it was a case of one lap too many. After producing their best qualifying performance this season, setting the fourth fastest time, the Italian duo crashed on their final attempt.

“We were running very well, especially on the outside leg when we suddenly caught a big wave, the boat went straight up. When she came down and over we went. It is not possible to repair in time for the race tomorrow but hopefully in time for Qatar.” said a disappointed Montavoci.

Spirit of Norway was the first out to take on the extreme seas and set a time of 3mins 23.71secs, but then saw their Norwegian rivals Jotun and then Qatar 96 go quicker. After making a change to their set-up, Curtis and Gjelsten came back for one more lap and post the fastest time, 3mins 05.43secs, eight seconds quicker than Qatar 96, with Jotun, third quickest.

“I think we made a point out there today,” said Gjelsten. “Steve is a fantastic throttleman, especially in conditions like this. I picked some good lines out there and the coordination between us was excellent. We used the first leg as a sighting lap, we knew what adjustments we had to make and were confident that in the rough we would be quickest.”

Second fastest, producing their best Pole Position result of the season, and crucially finishing ahead of championship rivals, Victory77, was Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96.

“Conditions were very tricky, but we are very pleased with second position and we fulfilled the main objective of staying well ahead ofVictory 77,” said Sheikh Hassan. “We also showed that our boat is quicker than Victory and that bodes well for the race on Saturday and we need to finish ahead of them to close the gap in the championship.”

Also producing an impressive showing and their best qualifying run of the year was Jotun’s Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski, going third fastest.

“I am very happy with the time but it was very tough out there,” said Tandberg. “I think if the conditions remain the same on Saturday we have a very good set-up, but in conditions like this you need some luck. The sea is hard to read and you just hope not to catch a big wave.”

For Victory 77, fifth place was their first time this season outside the top three, but like Qatar 95, in sixth place, both crews erred on the side of caution, choosing not to push too hard and risk damaging the boats.

“There was nothing to be gained by pushing in conditions like this. The race will be a long and a bit of a lottery. We will see what happens.” commented Sanchez.

With both Spirit of Norway and Qatar 96 lining up ahead of the championship leader’s, Victory 77, the Egyptian Grand Prix promises to be enthralling and demanding with conditions expected to be rough and unpredictable.

EDOX POLE POSITION – round 4

1. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 3m 05.43s

2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 3m 13.96s

3. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) – 3m 16.29s

4. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA) – 3m 18.43s

5. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 3m 23.96s

6. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 3m 26.79s

7. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – 3m 34.35s

8. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) – 3m 38.90s

9. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N Hendi (UAE) – 3m 40.15s

10. SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – 4m 45.25s

11. Fainplast 2 – K Selmer (NOR)/M Esperto (ITA) – 4m 47.79s

EDOX POLE POSITION CHAMPIONSHIP – after round 4 of 7

1. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 80pts

2. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 49pts

3. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 45pts

4. Victory 7 – A Al Sayed (UAE)/N Hendi (UAE) – 34pts