Champion says others are "driving like idiots"
Britain’s Steve Curtis failed to get the result he wanted as he and driver Bjorn Gjelsten spun out in the weekend’s Class 1 race in Romania.
The legendary duo desperately needed maximum points to get their world title defence back on track.
A slow start to the season has seen their team Spirit of Norway lying an uncharacteristic third, around 20 points behind the leaders.
Curtis, of Southampton, is the Class One World Champion seven times over, the sport’s most successful ever competitor.
But it was his rival’s Victory 77 and drivers Arif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez that took the win at the Romanian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The result also gave the pair the 2007 European title. Second place went to Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini drivingQatar 96, with team mates, Abdullah-Al Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini inOatar 95completing the podium in third.
Following a chaotic start, with two boats appearing to go early, and despite starting from second place on the start line, Al Zafeen and Sanchez were lying in third place at the end of the first lap behindNegotiator, with team mates, Al Sayed and Nadir bin Hendi,Victory 7, out in front. They passedNegotiatorone lap later and fought back to grab the lead on the sixth. For the next three lapsVictory 77fought off a strong challenge fromQatar 96which had moved up from fifth place.
On the tenth lap,Victory 77took their first long-lap, but as she finished had to swerve violently to avoidQatar 96, coming out of the turn. For the next ten laps, Al Zafeen and Sanchez were able to maintain a narrow advantage overQatar 96, going on to win and extend their world championship lead to 19 points.
“I think that was one of the best races of my career,” said Jean-Marc Sanchez. “It was a tough race. We gave 100 per cent from the start-to-finish. There were some dirty manoeuvres out there and some backmarkers that caused us problems. But we won and we are happy about that and we have our first title of the season.” Asked about the incident on the long-lap withQatar 96, Sanchez dismissed it, saying ‘that’s racing’.
Second place for Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini, their fourth consecutive podium of the season, was not enough for the duo to regain the European crown they won in 2005 but keeps them in the hunt for the overall title. “We missed out on the title, but it was an excellent weekend for the team with second and third places,” said Sheikh Hassan. “Our performance was good and I think we may have been a little faster than 77 at times, but not enough to get past them. But Abdullah and Lino showed great improvements inQatar 95and Matteo and I managed to take crucial championship points to remain in second place in the championship and maintain the pressure onVictory 77.”
Qatar 95’sfirst podium of the season was well deserved and hard fought for, with Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini, moving from fifth place into third on lap nine. “I think everyone saw that the start was not good. But we drove very hard and we pushed the boat all the way to make the podium. And from here we can build on this performance.” said Al-Sulaiti.
Fourth place forSpirit of Norwaywas not the result they were looking for in a race that went wrong for them at the start, finding themselves down in eighth place at the end of the first lap after starting from pole position. Having clawed their way back into fourth place, Gjelsten and Curtis then spun out on lap seven while trying to passVictory 7, dropping them back down the running order to sixth. And a penalty long-lap incurred several laps later for hitting a turn-buoy ended their hopes of a podium, and despite moving into third place in the title race, are now 30 points off the lead. But both Gjelsten and Curtis were clearly unimpressed and angered by the tactics used by some of their rivals.
“Some people out there are driving like idiots and ignoring the rules.” said Curtis.
After a frustrating season so far and a difficult weekend, Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker produced easily their best showing, bringingNegotiatorhome fifth. “After all the problems that we have had, that was a good result for us,” said Parsonage. “It was a bit of a dog-fight out there and we had a good fight withQatar 95. The boat ran well but we needed more speed but knew from the set-up we opted for we would be slightly compromised. But to finish in fifth is great for the team after all the hard work.”
Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi, won their on-going battle with Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen, finishing in sixth ahead ofSpirit Norway 20, withJotunsalvaging three points in eighth after breaking a propeller, withSeveneleveNandVM Foresti & Suardipicking up points in ninth and tenth.Victory 7was the only retirement of the race, after breaking a propeller and damaging the boat.
ROMANIAN GRAND PRIX
1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen(UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR)
2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA)
3. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA)
4. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB)
5. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB)
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA)
7. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR)
8. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR)
9. SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA)
10. VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli (ESP)/K Selmer (NOR)
Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – dnf
CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP TABLE – after round 4 of 8
1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen(UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 79pts
2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 60pts
3. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 49pts
4. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – 44pts
5. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 36pts
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA) – 22pts
7. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) – 20pts
8. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – 12pts
9. SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – 10pts
10. VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli (ESP)/K Selmer (NOR) – 5pts
11. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) – 3pts