As the bitter rivalry between the Victory and Qatar Teams intensifies, and the war-of-words off the water gathers apace, Jotun’s all-Norwegian pairing of Jorn Tandberg and Inge Brigt Aarbakke, gave both teams something to think about, posting the fastest time in today’s official practice session, raising expectations of a home win in this weekend’s BMW Norwegian Grand Prix.
Tandberg and Aarbakke were impressive on their first outing together in Moscow two weeks ago, going second quickest in qualifying, and today, with Aarbakke getting his first feel for the Arendal course, the pair again proved they are very quick and have elevated themselves to being serious front-runners, setting a time of 3m 20.51s around the 5.62Nm lap, two seconds quicker than Championship leaders Victory 1. 'Our last lap was very good and I felt very comfortable out there,' said Inge Brigt Aarbakke. 'I think if we make some adjustments to the gearings we can improve in the corners and take a couple of seconds off our time.'
Victory 1’s Nadir Bin Hendi was happy with their first session, which gave them the chance to try out different set-up’s. 'Having two hours to test was very good. It gave us the chance to try two or three different options for qualifying. It’s a great course for both driver and throttleman, but today the wind was a little tricky and you had to be careful. But I am happy with the way things went.'
Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis posted the third fastest time in Qatar 96, but know they face a huge task this weekend if they are to outpace Victory 1 and reduce the point’s gap between them. And it is Sheikh Hassan’s comment, that he feels ‘the only advantage that Victory 1 has over the rest of the fleet is the electronics on board’ that is adding to the friction between the two teams, and which brought an immediate response from defending World and European Champion, Jean-Marc Sanchez. 'It is rubbish to say that it is all down to technology,' said Sanchez. 'Nadir and Mohammed have been brilliant this season, while Arif (Al Zafeen) and Nadir did a superb job in Qatar in the opening race. But the opposition can say what they like – we’ll do our talking on the water.'
Qatar 95’s Matteo Nicolini and Abdullah Al-Sulaiti posted the fourth fastest time of the afternoon in three very hectic laps. 'We lost the gearing on our first lap and had to stop, and then we spun-out on our next lap on the top turn but we did well to save the boat from going over. I think we put in a pretty good lap after that and decided to call it a day.' said Al-Sulaiti.
Nicola Giorgi and Giorgi Manuzzi took full advantage of the two-hour session, putting in seven laps in SeveneleveN, and after trying out various set-ups improved their time by almost twenty seconds to post a sixth fastest time, just four seconds behind Victory 7, with Sanchez and Abdullah Al-Mehairbi going through what Sanchez describes as his ‘usual Friday, no need to push just give Abdullah a chance to get used to the course and see what’s what’.
For the crews of Foresti & Suardi and Maritimo it was a frustrating afternoon with technical problems interrupting their sessions and both outfits failing to post a time, whilst Roscioli Hotels Roma had to sit out the session because of on-going repairs to the boat from damage sustained in Moscow. First official practice times:
1. Jotun 90 – IB Aarbakke (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) – 03.20,51
2. Victory 1 - M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 03.22,71
3. Qatar 96 - H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 03.24,12
4. Qatar 95 - A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) – 03.26,14
5. Victory 7 - A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 03.27,18
6. SeveneleveN 18 - G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – 03.31,50
7. Qatar 9 - M Al-Nassr (Qatar) / L Nicolini (Italy) – 03.43,15
Foresti & Suardi 8 - K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – dnf Maritimo 20 – T Barry-Cotter (Australia) / PV Nilsen (Norway) – dnf
Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 - S Carrasco (Spain) / D Cirilli (Spain) – dns http://www.class-1.com/