Driving the recently rebuilt Victory 4, Mohamed Al Ghaith and Khalfan Harib from Dubai steered their way to top honours at the Fujairah (UAE) Grand Prix, despite being pushed to the line by Saudi driver Laith Pharaon in Hyatt.
Hyatt’s crew were also pushed themselves in the final laps by third placed Ali Nasser and Randy Scism aboard Victory 7, who despite experiencing early engine problems forcing them to run with smoke in the cockpit, had fought their way up through a much decimated fleet. “Khalfan and I were both exhausted,” admitted an elated Mohamed Al Ghaith.
“It was our hardest race ever. The course had many turns which kept us constantly working the wheel and throttles. Hence we were happy being back in the old boat we know and trust.”
“We knew Hyatt was catching up but it was important to conserve our engine and reach the finish,” continued the winning driver. “We’re obviously very happy, but also very much aware that the only reason we won was because our Victory team-mates had problems.
“We got off to a great start, everything was going fine and then about one lap into the race the cockpit started to fill up with smoke,” confessed throttleman Randy Scism aboard the third placed Victory 7. “We knew that we had to finish 70 per cent of the course to have any chance of scoring points, so we stopped only to find fluid smothering the starboard engine. We didn’t know where it came from, so we decided to continue at a steady pace even picking up the place.”
Meanwhile, the action packed race of attrition, where only six of the 11 starters complete the 13 lap, 129.05nm course, saw impressive performances from Britain’s Ken Thorne and Italian Matteo Nicolini in No Fear and Norwegians Andreas Ugland and Jann Hillestad driving Jotun. Both boats ran as high as third, until mechanical problems forced their retirement.
“It was a very challenging tight course, which, with our circuit racing experience, helped us quite a lot,” admitted Andreas Ugland later. Saeed Al Tayer and Felix Serralles in Victory 44 who perhaps had the biggest reason to rue their luck. After leading impressively for much of the contest, their championship aspirations were effectively ended when their rig suffered not one, but two broken propellers.
Meanwhile, the ever-dependable Binautica, piloted by Monegasques Claudio Dionisio and Roberto Biancalana, maintained their 100 per cent finishing rate to fill fourth. Although this result produced another nine points, it wasn’t sufficient to prevent them slipping back to sixth on the championship table.
Norwegian Bjorn Gjelsten and British ace Steve Curtis aboard Spirit of Norway – another boat making its return after a recent damage rebuild, were also knocked out of the event early on. Despite closely stalking Victory 7 to the first turn buoy, the outgoing World Champions were forced to retire on the second lap when they found themselves unable to select third gear.
“We had great start and chased Victory 7 hard to the first mark. I think we would have caught it but then an electrical breakdown put paid to our chances,” said Curtis. “Since the boat’s been re-built we’ve been sorting out problems, but unfortunately, didn’t find this one.” With the final two rounds of the Championship – the Emirates Grand Prix (October 29) and the Dubai Duty Free Grand Prix (November 5) both looming, the outcome of the championship looks certain to be decided at the final heat once again with either Victory 7 or Victory 4 lifting the coveted Sam Griffith trophy.
World Class I (16 litre) Offshore Championship Round 7.
Fujairah (UAE)Race Results
1 Victory 4 M.Al-Gaith/K/Harib (UAE) Lamborghini/Victory 20pts
2 Hyatt L.Pharaon/E.Polli (Saudi/It) Seatek/Aurantium 15pts
3 Victory 7 A.Nasser/R.Scism )UAE/USA) Lamborghini/Victory 12pts
Championship positions after seven rounds
1 A.Nasser/R.Scism (UAE/USA) 106pts
2 M.Al-Gaith/K.Harib (UAE) 75pts
3 S.Al Tayer/F.S