Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis put their title defence back on course, producing a flawless performance in Spirit of Norway to take their third win of the year at the Qatar Duty Free Grand Prix in Doha on November 20.

Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis put their title defence back on course, producing a flawless performance in Spirit of Norway to take their third win of the year at the Qatar Duty Free Grand Prix in Doha on November 20. The local favorites Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Italian Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96 followed up their win in Oslo last time to finish second with the current championship leaders Ali Nasser and Ali Al Qama, in Victory 7 coming third.
Gjelsten and Curtis led from the start and at no time looked like being challenged, going on to complete the 19 lap, 93.27Nm course in 53mins 16.91secs at an average speed of 120.88mph/194.51kmh to win by a 15 second margin.
“It was a tricky course but we stuck to our plan which was to get a good start and dictate the pace,” said Gjelsten. “We decided to keep pushing until we had opened up a 30-second gap and then we could back off a little. Our set has been good all weekend, we have speed and now we have the reliability back but the big difference is in the handling.”
Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini’s second place moves them up to third on the points table but they were made to work hard in a race against Victory 7.
“I am very pleased to finish second at my home Grand Prix. It is a great result. We still have some improvements to make to be on the same pace as Spirit but we beat Victory and that was one of our goals,” said Hassan.
Third slot for Ali Nasser and Ali Al Qama keeps them heading the title race but with a lead down to five points.
“This hasn’t helped our championship bid but we tried everything,” said Al Qama. “We were chasing Qatar hard and kept catching them in the corners but lost out on the straights. I think our set up was a little short, we had the acceleration but not the speed.”
Producing one of their strongest showings of the year, bringing Negotiator home in fourth were Britain’s Chris Parsonage and Peter McGrath, whose move to take the long lap early paid dividends.
“We made a good start and were running fifth and losing out in the dirty water, so Pete called the long lap early,” said Parsonage. “It was a good call because we jumped Victory 77 when they took theirs.”
Edoardo Polli and Lamberto Leoni, running the Mercury HP1075Sci V8 for the first time brought Highlander home in a very positive fifth place. But there was disappointment for Al Marri and Sanchez in Victory 77 finishing only sixth after a technical problem thwarted their efforts. Giampaolo Montavoci and Domenico Cirilli maintained their points in every race with seventh in GFN Gibellato ahead of Bard Eker and Ricardo Brkovic in Hydrolift with Bellmann and Hillestad having to settle for ninth in Jotun after breaking a propeller. Nicola Giorgi and Mauro Esparto in Roscioli Hotels retired on lap 7.
The win by Spirit of Norway keeps the championship race wide open and the teams now have just 24hrs to prepare for round six and their second race in Doha on 22 November.
Grand Prix – results
1. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 20pts 2. Qatar – Al Thani/Nicolini 15pts 3. Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 12pts 4. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 9pts 5. Highlander – Polli/Leoni – not racing for points 6. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 7pts 7. GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 5pts 8. Hydrolift – Eker/Brkovic 4pts 9. Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 3pts Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto Retired
Overall Championship Positions
1. Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 65pts 2. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 60pts 3. Qatar – Al-Thani/Nicolini 47pts 4. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 46pts 5. Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 30pts 6. GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 29pts 7. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 26pts 8. Hydrolift – Eker/Jacobsen 20pts 9=Highlander – Polli/Corti 12pts 9=Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto 12pts