Qatar 96 Egyptian Grand Prix Porto Marina ©Simon Palfrader
Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis needed just one lap to demonstrate their superiority in rough conditions, by going quickest in today's qualifying session and will start the Egyptian Grand Prix from Pole Position.
Victory 1 set the second fastest time of the afternoon, with the Championship leaders's Mohammed Al Marri and Nadir Bin Hendi posting their best time on the second of three runs, but trailed in over 12 seconds behind Qatar 96 due to a navigational error.
After a troublesome two days with niggling engine problems that limited the European Champions to just three practice laps, Inge Brigt Aarbakke and Jorn Tandberg, finally had one trouble-free run which was good enough to edge out Victory 7 by just two-hundredths of a second, to go third quickest in Jotun, as they chase down their third straight win of the year.
For Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis, currently down in fifth place in the overall standings and 21 points adrift of the leaders, a win in tomorrow's Egyptian Grand Prix, or at least a finish ahead of both Victory outfits is an absolute must if they are to keep their title hopes alive. And, after seeing both Victory boats set the early pace, the Qatar 96 crew then produced a stunning time of 3m 23.26s on their first and only run to take the pole, their second of the season. 'The conditions here are very changeable so it was vital to get a good lap in early,' said Curtis. 'I was surprised to see the differences in the times as I felt that it was not a great lap and certainly not our best set-up. We were prepared to go again but the conditions then got worse and we knew we had done enough.'
Victory will line up in second and fourth places, and with their comfortable points advantage in the title race do not need to push to take the win in tomorrow's race. 'Due to the conditions our main goal is to bring both boats home safetly. said Victory's General Manager, Gianfranco Venturelli. 'Tomorrow we must be concentrated. We must give our crews reliable boats and we must hope for them not to make mistakes. We do not need to push, but the others do, to try to reduce the points gap. Of course we will try to get as close to the top positions as possible.'
Today's quickly changing conditions caught out several crews. Qatar 95, Negotiator and Foresti & Suardi were all unable to reproduce the form that they had shown in earlier practice sesions, with all three admitting to going out for their opening laps with the wrong set-ups and then getting caught out by the deteriorating conditions. 'If the conditions stay the same or even get worse, tomorrow is all about who will be at the finish, not who is the fastest.' said Chris Parsonage, who will line up with Billy Moore in Negotiator in sixth place, ahead of Foresti and Suardi, with Qatar 95 in fifth.
SeveneleveN's Giorgio Manuzzi and Nicola Giorgi were the only crew to stay the distance in the rough seas, completing all four of their flying laps, setting the eighth best time, with Class 1 newcommer, Mohammed Abdelkader Ahmed and Ahmed Al Suwaidi comming home in ninth. But there was big disappointment for the Spirit of Spain pairing of Sergio Carrasco and Giovanni Carpitella, who after breaking an engine in the morning practice, had to sit out the qualifying session.
Edox Pole Position - result
1. Qatar 96 - H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) - 03.23,26
2. Victory 1 - M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) - 03.35,53
3. Jotun 90 - IB Aarbakke (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) - 03.38,60
4. Victory 7 - A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) - 03.38,62
5. Qatar 95 - A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) - 03.40,84
6. Negotiator 50 - C Parsonage (England) / W Moore (USA) - 03.44,43
8. Foresti & Suardi 8 - K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) - 03.47,62
9. SeveneleveN 18 - G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) - 04.07,64
9. Roscioli Hotels Roma 60 - M A Ahmed (Spain) / A Al Suwaidi (UAE) - 04.36,68
Spirit of Spain 88 - S Carrasco (Spain) / G Carpitella (Italy) - dns
EDOX POLE POSITION CHAMPIONSHIP - after round 6 of 8
1. Victory 1 - 90pts, 2. Qatar 96 - 79pts, 3. Jotun 90 - 63pts, 4. Qatar 95 - 44pts
5. Victory 7 - 37pts, 6. Foresti & Suardi 8 - 21pts, 7. SeveneleveN 18 - 18pts
8. Negotiator 50 - 12pts, 9= Qatar 9 - 5pts, 9= Spirit of Spain 88 - 5pts 10. Roscioli Hotels Roma 60 - 2pts