Arif Saif Al Zaffeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez make it one and two for Victor at Greek Grand Prix

Victory 77‘s Arif Saif Al Zaffeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez topped a Victory success by winning the Greek Grand Prix ahead of team-mates Nadir bin Hendi and Mohammed Al Suwaidi in Victory 7. Qatar 96‘s Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini then completed a clean sweep of the podium for the Middle East.

“I feel great. Winning the first race of the championship and with a new driver, what more can you ask for?” said Sanchez. “We made a good start before moving up on the outside and I knew from that point we were in good shape because we had the perfect set-up.”

For newcomer Al Zafeen it was a dream debut. “I am very, very happy and this is something that I really didn’t believe could happen for me. Everything today went the right way for us.” he said.

But Al Zafeen and Sanchez didn’t have it all their own in the early stages and were made to work hard for their win. From the start it was Victory 7 that grabbed the early lead and for the opening four laps had to fend off a strong challenge from Spirit of Norway. But on lap five, Spirit of Norway slowed and returned to the pits to replace a broken water hose. Victory 77 moved into second place and then on lap eight swept passed their team-mates, going on take a comfortable win, completing the 21-laps in 54mins 19.96secs at an average speed of 118.65mph/190.91kmh.

It was a race of high attrition, and with two of the fancied boats, both running V8s suffering engine problems and going out, Negotiator on lap one and Jotun on lap five it was left to the Qatar team to try to mount a serious challenge. But the pace of the Victory outfits was too much, but third and fourth for Qatar 96 and 95 completed a rout of the top four positions for the Middle East teams over their European challengers.

“Third is ok for us for today. It was the first time for almost two years since we ran with the V12s but we still have some work to do.” said Sheikh Hassan.

Giampaolo Montavoci and Domenico Cirilli looked to be heading for a top five finish in Foresti&Suardi, but a broken engine ended their race on the 14th lap. Spirit of Norway, who had rejoined the race on the tenth lap, were able to salvage valuable points, clawing their way back to finish fifth with Nicola Giorgi and Tomaso Polli celebrating their renewed partnership with sixth spot, in SeveneleveN.

For the young Australian, Tom Barry-Cotter, his Class 1 debut was less fruitful, when he and Norwegian Pal Virik Nilsen were forced to retire Spirit of Norway 20 on the 7th lap with a broken propeller.

Race results:

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

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

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

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

5. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) 4 laps

6. SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) 6 laps

Foresti & Suardi 8 – Cirilli (ESP)/ Montavoci (ITA) – dnf

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

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

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

Overwave 11 – Ceriali (ITA)/Ceschin (ITA) – dns

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS – after race 1 of 8

1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen(UAE)/Sanchez (FR) – 20pts

2. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE) – 15pts

3. Qatar 96 – Al Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) – 12pts

4. Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 9pts

5. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) – 7pts

6. SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – 5pts

Foresti & Suardi 8 – Cirilli (ESP)/ Montavoci (ITA) – dnf

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

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

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

Overwave 11 – Ceriali (ITA)/Ceschin (ITA) – dns