Battle for world title hots up

Just three races to go - can Curtis do it again?

With three races remaining in the 2007 Class 1 World Offshore Championship, contest for the title is reaching fever pitch. Fuelled by an intense rivalry, the three heavyweights, Victory 77, Qatar 96 and Spirit of Norway , remain locked in a three-way battle for the title.

The circuit around Palm Tree Island on Doha Bay has recently seen some spectacular racing and this year’s round six, the Qatar Grand Prix on November 15-17, could well prove pivotal in the outcome of the championship.

Victory 77’s Arif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez have led the points table from the opening round in Athens and with the luxury of an 18 point advantage, hold the whip-hand. Although they would clearly like to wrap the championship up sooner than later this points lead means they do not need to take risks in Doha. They are however being stalked with a ferocious intent by Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96 together with defending World Champions, Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis driving Spirit of Norway. Neither team is in any mood to concede the title without a monumental fight. Both finished ahead of the current leaders after a tough race in Egypt – Spirit of Norway grabbing its second win of the season, with Qatar 96 second and Victory 77, third.

The first action in Doha Bay takes place on Thursday, 15 November, when practicing teams will be given an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the revised course around Palm Tree Island. Second practice on Friday is followed by the fifth Edox Pole Position of the season in the afternoon, with the final practice session and the 20 lap, 92.88Nm Qatar Grand Prix on Saturday, 17 November.

Of the leading protagonists, Spirit of Norway has by far the best record in Doha: winning five times since the first Qatar Grand Prix was held in 2002. Victory 77 grabbed their only win here in 2005 and last year the Qatar Camp took their first win on home waters, with Qatar 95 stealing the headlines from Qatar 96. This next round might just be their turn to win.