Victory 77’s Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez took a giant step towards the coveted Class 1 world title after producing a championship winning performance to take their fourth win of the season in today’s Qatar Grand Prix, round 6 of the WPPA Class1 World Powerboat Championship, and now lead the title race by 22 points, with the final two rounds in Dubai in two weeks.
Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini kept their title hopes alive, bringing Qatar 96 home in second place, taking their sixth podium of the season, with Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker producing their best performance of the year to grab their first podium together, taking a well deserved third place.
But for the defending World Champions, Spirit of Norway, who started today’s race from pole position, there was bitter disappointment, with Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis retiring on lap 15 with a broken engine, and their title aspirations in tatters and the hopes of a sixth world title now beyond their reach.
The race was all but decided on the opening lap, with Victory 77 producing a spectacular lap to move from fourth place on the start line to lead at the end of lap one, with Spirit of Norway second, followed by Qatar 96 and Negotiator. 'We had a good start and arrived at the first turn alongside Spirit,' said Jean-Marc Sanchez. 'We stayed on the outside and I knew if we could stay with them we had the inside line on the next turn. It was very close. We nearly touched but we managed to push them over a bit and then pushed hard. We watched for their long laps and then took ours. We lost a little time in the middle of the race with back markers but the boat ran perfectly and our set-up was perfect.'
With the three title rivals holding station and opening up a lead, Negotiator came under increasing pressure from a hard charging Jotun, who grabbed fourth place on lap four, but Negotiator responded immediately to regain the position a lap later and two laps later a technical problem ended Jotun’s race. Negotiator then held of a challenge from Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini in Qatar 95, who in turn had Victory 7, who dropped from second at the start to eighth after hooking the boat at the first corner, breathing down their necks.
Over the course of the next six laps the leading trio exchanged long laps. Qatar 96 went first, followed by Spirit of Norway and the race leaders. By lap 13, with both long laps taken, Spirit of Norway had reduced the gap to Victory 77 from 12 to four seconds, but two laps later the defending champions were out, a broken engine destroying their title bid.
Now in an unassailable position Victory 77 were able to cruise home and take the chequered flag and the win, with Qatar 96 crossing the line over a minute behind them. 'It was a hard and fast race. We made a good start but I think we lacked a little in top end speed. But the performance of Victory 77 was very very strong today. But what was important was for us to finish on the podium and we are still in with a chance of the title' said Nicolini.
For Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker, the first podium of the year for Negotiator was a rich reward for the team. 'This is a great result for us and I am delighted for the team. The guys have worked hard all weekend – all season - to get us here,' said Parsonage. 'We had a bit of a tussle with Jotun and Qatar 95 but eventually got into our stride. The boat ran well and now we can concentrate on further improvement for Dubai.'
Qatar 95 were able to stave of the persistent challenge of Victory 7, with Spirit of Norway 20 taking their third top six finish of the season with Foresti & Suardi finishing in the points in Seventh, with SeveneleveN retiring early in the race.
Class 1 now heads to Dubai for the Mina Seyahi Grand Prix on Saturday, 1 December, the first of two races in a week. The title race is now between two – Victory 77 and Qatar 96.
For all the latest news, team and championship information visit www.class-1.com QATAR GRAND PRIX, DOHA - RESULTS
1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR)
2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) + 01.17,73
3. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) + 01.57,97
4. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) + 02.19,67
5. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) + 2.29,41
6. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) + 1 lap
7. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (NOR)/G Montavoci (ITA) + 2 laps
8. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) + 5 laps
Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) dnf
SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) dnf
WPPA CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP – after round 6 of 8
1. Victory 77 – A Al Zafeen (UAE)/JM Sanchez (FR) – 116pts
2. Qatar 96 – H Al Thani (QAT)/M Nicolini (ITA) – 94pts
3. Spirit of Norway 10 – B Gjelsten (NOR)/S Curtis (GB) – 76pts
4. Victory 7 – T Al Sayed (UAE)/N B Hendi (UAE) – 53pts
5. Qatar 95 – A Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 49pts
6. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (NOR)/C Parsonage (GB) – 37pts
7. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/G Montavoci (ITA) – 35pts
8. Spirit of Norway 20 – T Barry-Cotter (AUS)/P Nilsen (NOR) – 29pts
9. SeveneleveN 18 – T Polli (ITA)/N Giorgi (ITA) – 14pts
10. Jotun 90 – C Zaborowski (NOR)/J Tandberg (NOR) - 12pts
11. Fainplast 2 – K Selmer (NOR)/M Esperto (ITA) – 5pts
For all the latest news, team and championship information visit www.class-1.com