Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis in Spirit of Norway produced a flawless performance in Oslo to win the Scandinavian Grand Prix...

Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis in Spirit of Norway produced a flawless performance in Oslo to win the Scandinavian Grand Prix and clinch the 2003 European Championship.

The Anglo-Norwegian partnership led from the flag and despite an early challenge from Saeed Al Tayer and Mohammed Al Marri driving Victory 77 never looked like being challenged, finishing the 18 lap, 100Nm race 49 seconds ahead of Victory 77 with Australians Bill Barry-Cotter and Peter McGrath in Maritimo Offshore third.

The win rounded off a weekend of domination for Gjelsten and Curtis who also took the Pole Position in pre-race practice. “I have to say it was almost a perfect race. We had a fantastic Pole yesterday and that really set up the win,” said Gjelsten. “The boat was well balanced and ran perfectly from start to finish. Conditions were flat and very fast out there today and demanded more of me as the driver than the last rougher race. We had a few moments at the first corner but got out ahead and our only real challenge came from Saeed, but after the fifth lap we began to stretch our lead.”

Saeed Al Tayer and Mohammed Al Marri’s return to form continued and second spot confirmed that they and the boat are back at their best.

“I am very happy with the result,” said Al Tayer. “I am also happy with the boat but we still have some adjustments to improve overall performance. One thing is certain we will keep pushing as hard as we can.”

A miss calculation by Barry-Cotter and McGrath driving Maritimo Offshore on the penultimate lap, thinking they had run the full race distance could have proved costly when they backed off almost coming to a complete stop. But they soon realized their error and were back on the throttles in time to take third place and their third race podium of the season. “I think we were a little short on propeller but apart from that everything was pretty much okay. We got a bad start and the first corner was a bit of a mess with boats everywhere but after a couple of laps we moved into third and with the set-up we had is really all we could have hoped for.” said Barry-Cotter.

Highlander came home fourth but the lack of speed confounded Italian Edoardo Polli. “Racing can be very strange at times. We ran exactly the same set-up, same props, same ratio settings but she was 5mph slower, very strange.” Also disappointed by their boat’s performance were Norweigian Jann Hillestad and Bernhard Bellmann in Jotun. “Although it was our best result so far this season it was frustrating for both of us,” said Hillestad. “We ran the same set-up in testing and ran 145mph but in the race our best speed was 138mph. I really don’t know what went wrong.”

Losing out were Ali Al Qama and Ahmed Al Tayer in Victory 7 who retired on lap 4 with a broken propeller. But the event belonged to Gjelsten and Curtis who not only lifted the European title for the third time in six years but now lead the Pole Position contest by 21 points and have tightened their grip on the world championship, extending their lead to 24 points.