The immediate indications from the first official practice session in Doha are that Monday's Qatar Grand Prix will be fought out between the sports heavyweights with Victory 77, Spirit of Norway and Qatar 95 setting the pace.

The immediate indications from the first official practice session in Doha are that Monday’s Qatar Grand Prix will be fought out between the sports heavyweights with Victory 77, Spirit of Norway and Qatar 95 setting the pace. While Abdullah Al Sulaiti and Lino di Biase will be more than satisfied with their first competitive outing in Qatar 95 using the new Mercury 1075SCi units, team-mates Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini will not be happy with their session after engine problems prevented the European Champions and championship leaders from posting a competitive time.

“We knew immediately that something was wrong, so we returned to the pits,” said Sheikh Hassan. “The worst fear is a serious engine problem, because there are three championship bonus points at stake for running with the same engine and we hope that an engine change is not necessary”.

Spirit of Norway was one of the first boats on to the water and Bard Eker and Steve Curtis made their intentions clear from the outset with an imposing time of 2mins 52.42secs before coming in to make adjustments. And despite improving their time on their fourth and final run it was Victory 77′s Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez who dominated the session, posting a time of 2mins 47.59secs on their first effort and a best time of 2mins 46.39secs on their final run.

“At last we have had a good practice session. The whole team has worked hard over the summer in a lot of areas and it has paid off.” said Jean Marc Sanchez. “Today we tested four different propeller set-ups, adjusted the balance of the boat and found a good overall set-up”.

Victory 7′s Nader Bin Hindi and Rashid Al Marri continued to impress and took the fourth fastest time ahead of Chris Parsonage and Randy Scism in Negotiator, who, after a propeller change at the mid-session shaved 13 seconds off their opening time to post 2mins 57.33secs, becoming fifth fastest. And despite only posting two times, Bjorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski went sixth quickest in Jotun, the second entry running the Mercury engines ahead of GFN Gibellato‘s Giampaolo Montavoci and Domenico Cirilli and Italians Giuseppe Chillocci and Kristian Tzanov – making their Class debuts together in Ceramiche Flaminia. Roscioli Hotels did not test.