Ecstatic home crowd sees Gjelsten and Curtis win
Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis produced an emphatic performance in Spirit of Norway to win Sunday’s Scandinavian Grand Prix. The third round of the WPPA World Powerboat Championship, the result puts their world title defence back on track with Victory 77’s Arif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez, the championship leader’s, finishing second ahead of Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96.
For Gjelsten and Curtis a win was essential to keep them in the title race, with the Anglo-Norwegian pairing also looking to complete the double in Oslo, after winning Saturday’s Edox Pole Position. Gjelsten and Curtis pushed from the flag and despite a poor start, eventually won the drag-race down the straight to lead into the first corner ahead of Victory 77 and Qatar 96. With clear water ahead, they were able to gradually build a solid lead, going on to complete a comfortable flag-to-finish win.
“We knew how important it was for us to win here,” said Gjelsten. “We made a poor start but halfway down the straight managed to edge ahead. We took a risk and went hard into the corner and it paid off. Now we have to remain focussed and repeat this win in Romania to keep the pressure on the boats ahead of us in the championship.”
Second place for Victory 77 keeps them 15 points clear in the race for the world title and now makes them odds on favourites to clinch the European title at the next race in Constanta, Romania.
“Yes, happy with second but the race was decided at the start,” said Jean-Marc Sanchez. “We made a good start but never managed to get ahead of Spirit enough to move across so we had to maintain our line. On a short course like this, after about three laps, if you are behind it is hell. You catch all the wash and it makes it very difficult.”
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Despite a third consecutive podium for Qatar 96, Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani was disappointed with third place.
“I am not that pleased with this result. I really thought we would do better here in Oslo but clearly we are still lacking some speed from the boat,” he said. “But we knew this race would be tough after seeing the times from qualifying of Spirit and Victory. Now if we are to have any hope of taking the European title we have to hope that 77 have a very poor race and we win.”
The battle for top six places behind the leading trio was headed by Victory 7, with the new partnership of Nadir Bin Hendi and Talib Al Sayed, making his Class 1 race debut. They produced their second very credible performance of the weekend, finishing fourth ahead of Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini in Qatar 95, who despite seeing some improvements in the boats performance over the weekend still lacked the pace needed to match the front runners. Behind Qatar 95, Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen enjoyed a second consecutive race-long battle with Foresti & Suardi’s, Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi, but this time Spirit of Norway 20’s young pairing won the battle to take their second top sixth finish of the season.
This apart, the opening lap saw the all Norwegian crew of Jotun, Jorn Tandberg and Christian Zaborowski, crash when they tried to avoid hitting Qatar 95
. “We having a period of bad luck,” said Christian Zaborowsk. “We made up a lot of ground after a poor start from the second row and went into the corner with Victory 7 ahead and Qatar 95 on the outside. Suddenly we saw Qatar cross our front leaving us nowhere to go. We pulled out of the turn to avoid hitting them and went over.”
Both pilots emerged unscathed but the boat suffered damage.
There was also disappointment for Domenico Cirilli and Kurt Olsen in VM Foresti & Suardi, heading the list of retirees, stopping on lap 11, with SeveneleveN’s Nicola Giorgi and Tomaso Polli going out on the seventh lap.
For Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker, the frustrations piled up with Negotiator failing to make the start.
Class 1 now heads to Constanta for the Romanian Grand Prix on Sunday, 2 September, where the European title will be decided, which, barring a disaster looks destined to go to Victory 77. But this win for Gjelsten and Curtis posts notice to their rivals that the defending World Champions are back to their best and still very much in the hunt for yet another world title.
1. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB)
2. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR)
3. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA)
4. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE)
5. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA)
6. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR)
7. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA)
VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli (ESP)/K Olsen (NOR) – dnf
SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – dnf
Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) – dnf
Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – dns
WPPA Class I World Championship – after three rounds
1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 58pts
2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 43pts
3. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – 40pts
4. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 36pts
5. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 20pts
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA) – 17pts
7. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) – 12pts
8. SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – 8pts
9= Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – 4pts
9= VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli (ESP)/K Olsen (NOR) – 4pts
Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) – 0pts