Gjelsten and Curtis back in the running for yet another world title

Norway’s Bjorn Gjelsten alongside Britain’s Steve Curtis produced an impressive performance aboard Spirit of Norway to win Saturday’s Egyptian Grand Prix so keeping their world title hopes alive. Qatar 96 finished second with championship leader, Victory 77 third.

With the course shortened to 57.59Nm due to the poor sea conditions, Spirit of Norway took full advantage of its pole position, hitting the front from the green flag and gradually building an impressive lead over their main rivals, Qatar 96 and Victory 77. Gjelsten and Curtis then went to win by 30 seconds.

“It was pretty rough out there but we had a very good run and this was the result we needed,” said Gjelsten. “Our set-up was good and we knew we would be hard to beat in these conditions. Steve did another great job on the throttles; we were right on the buoys at each turn and soon built a comfortable lead. The top four or five boats are all pretty similar in terms of performance, but today was more about the pilots than anything else. Now we have to go to the next race in Doha and do the same.”

Qatar 96 produced another strong showing after qualifying second fastest on Friday, and second place for Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini achieved their main target of reducing the gap to the championship leader’s.

“We made a good start and managed to get a good lead over Victory 77. Staying ahead was the goal but it is not easy when you are hitting waves and the boat is being thrown around at speed. Spirit had good acceleration and a good pace today, but our goal was to close the gap on Victory 77 which we have and now we can take the fight to Doha where we must finish well and hope that 77 is not on the podium.”

Third place for Victory 77 was a gutsy performance by Al Zafeen and Jean Marc Sanchez after throttleman Sanchez suffered a severe nose bleed at the start of the race and struggled throughout.

“Right at the start we lost communications and then I had another nose bleed which didn’t stop,” said an exhausted Sanchez. “All I could was to swallow the blood but this made me choke and I became very dehydrated. The last six laps were a nightmare. I am happy we could finish the race. It was tough out there.”

After producing their best showing in qualifying, Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker achieved their best result of the season bringing Negotiator home in fourth place, ahead of an excellent result for Giampaolo Montavoci, who switched into his second boat after crashing in qualifying, to partner Kolbjorn Selmer. Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski driving Jotun completed the top six, but will be disappointed with the result after running strongly in fourth and pushing Victory 77 for most the race, before technical problems dropped them down the field.

There was also disappointment also for Qatar 95, who after starting from sixth position, moved up to fourth and was closing in on third place when a broken supercharger belt ended their race. After running in fifth place, Spirit of Norway 20‘s race ended when a water hose broke with SeveneleveN and Victory 7 also failing to finish due to technical problems.

The teams now head to Doha in two weeks time for the Qatar Grand Prix, and with 24 points separating the top three, the title race looks set to go down to the final two races in Dubai.

Egyptian Grand Prix

Results

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

2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA)

3. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen(UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR)

4. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB)

5. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (NOR)/G Montavoci (ITA)

6. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR)

Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) dnf

Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) dnf

SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) dnf

Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – dnf

Fainplast 2 – M Pennesi (ITA)/M Esperto (ITA) – dns

World Class I Championship positions after five rounds

1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 93pts

2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 75pts

3. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 69pts

4. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – 44pts

5. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 36pts

6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA) – 33pts

7. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – 23pts

8. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) – 20pts

9. SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – 14pts

10. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) – 12pts

11. Fainplast 2 – K Selmer (NOR)/M Esperto (ITA) – 5pts