Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez looking hot

Victory 77’s Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez achieved their second consecutive success of the season by winning the Norwegian Grand Prix over the weekend to move 11 points clear in the overall world championship standings. Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini grabbed their second podium of the year, bringing Qatar 96 home in second spot ahead of Victory 7’s, Ahmed Al Suwaidi and Nadir Bin Hendi, also making it two podiums in two races.

Starting from second spot on the front row, Al Zafeen and Sanchez were second into the first corner behind Spirit of Norway , but trailed the defending champions for four laps, making little impression. Then on the fifth lap Spirit of Norway hit trouble and slowed, with Victory 77 going ahead to eventually extend their lead over Qatar 96 during the next eight laps to win the 12-lap, 95.72nm Norwegian Grand Prix in 53mins 59.42secs.

“I think I’m dreaming. This is the first time I have raced on this difficult course and to win is fantastic. I had a lot of help from Jean-Marc and the rest of the team but for me, it is difficult to explain how elated I feel about a second podium – a second win. I think I am like that young British racing driver (Lewis Hamilton) having the best time of my life.”

A second consecutive podium for Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini keeps Qatar 96 very much in the title hunt and moves them into second equal place in the championship, “I am very pleased with the result today,” said Sheikh Hassan. “We are now level in the championship in second place with Victory 7 and in a good position to challenge Victory 77. It was a difficult race. Everyone was racing aggressively early on, but we managed to get past Victory 7 on the start lap and then just knuckled down and focussed on keeping her behind us.”

Third place for Ahmed Al Suwaidi and Nader bin Hendi completed a double celebration for the Victory Team, and for the second race in a row, a rout of the podium by the Middle East teams, piling the pressure on their European rivals.

“We had a lot of technical problems to solve before the race and the whole team worked very hard this morning to get the boat ready. This is an excellent result for us and we are just very happy to be on the Podium with Victory 77.”

The first of the European teams was Foresti & Suardi, with Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi coming in, in an impressive fourth place in their first race together and on Pennesi’s Class 1 debut.

“Not bad for Marco in his first race,” said Montavoci. “We had a tough battle with Spirit of Norway 20, who made it very hard for us to pass, but the conditions on the outside were good for us and by taking our long laps together we eventually got past them.”.

Also producing an impressive showing was the youngest pairing in Class 1, Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen in Spirit of Norway 20, finishing fifth.

“We are pretty pleased with that, but would have liked to have got back in front of Foresti & Suardi,” said Tom. “The boat ran well but we still have issues with the steering, which we may decide to change, and that’s why we clouted the buoy.”

Outside of the top five, there was a trail of disappointment. Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis, looked to be in control of the race on the opening laps and on course to put their title challenge back on track, when Spirit of Norway suffered a broken water hose, forcing them into the pits and despite returning to the race, were able to salvage only five points when engine problems forced them to stop. Negotiator’s miserable start to the season continued, leading the long list of retirements; SeveneleveN, Jotun, VM Foresti & Suardi and Qatar 95 all stopping with technical problems..

Victory team now head to Oslo for the Scandinavian Grand Prix on August 12, leading the title race, with Arif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez looking to make it three wins out of three.

RACE RESULTS :

1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen (UAE)/Sanchez (FR)

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

3. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE)

4. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/ Montavoci (ITA)

5. Spirit of Norway 20 – Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Nilsen (NOR)

6. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB)

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

VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli/K Olsen (NOR) – dnf

Jotun 90 – Zaborowski (NOR)/Tandberg (NOR) – dnf

SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – dnf

Negotiator 50 – Eker (NOR)/Parsonage (GB) – dnf

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS – after round 2 of 8

1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen (UAE)/Sanchez (FR) – 42pts

2=. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE) – 31pts

2=. Qatar 96 – Al Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) – 31pts

4. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) – 16pts

5. Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 13pts

6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/ Montavoci (ITA) – 9pts

7=. SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – 7pts

7=. Spirit of Norway 20 – Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Nilsen (NOR) – 7pts

9. Negotiator 50 – Eker (NOR)/Parsonage (GB) – 4pts

10= Jotun 90 – Zaborowski (NOR)/Tandberg (NOR) – 0pts

10= VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli/K Olsen (NOR) – 0pts

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