Victory 77’s Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez took their second consecutive win of the season in last weekend Norwegian Grand Prix to move 11 points clear in the overall world championship standings. Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini grabbed their second podium of the year, bringing Qatar 96 home in second spot ahead of Victory 7’s, Ahmed Al Suwaidi and Nadir Bin Hendi, also making it two podiums in two races.
Starting from second spot on the front row, Al Zafeen and Sanchez were second into the first corner behind Spirit of Norway 10, but trailed the defending champions for four laps, making little impression. Then on lap five, Spirit of Norway hit trouble and slowed, with Victory 77 grabbing the lead and gradually extending their lead over Qatar 96 over the next eight laps to win the 12-lap, 95.72nm Norwegian Grand Prix in 53 m 59.42 s.
A second consecutive podium for Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini keeps Qatar 96 very much in the title hunt and moves them into second equal place in the championship, "I am very pleased with the result today," said Sheikh Hassan. "We are now level in the championship in second place with Victory 7 and in a good position to challenge Victory 77. It was a difficult race. Everyone was racing aggressively early on, but we managed to get past Victory 7 on the start lap and then just knuckled down and focused on keeping Victory 7 behind us."
Third place for Ahmed Al Suwaidi and Nader bin Hendi completed a double celebration for the Victory Team, and for the second race in a row, a rout of the podium by the Middle East teams, piling the pressure on their European rivals.
The first of the European teams was Foresti & Suardi, with Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi coming in, in an impressive fourth place in their first race together and on Pennesi’s Class 1 debut. "Not bad for Marco in his first race," said Montavoci. "We had a tough battle with Spirit of Norway 20, who made it very hard for us to pass, but the conditions on the outside were good for us and by taking our long laps together we eventually got past them."
Also producing an impressive showing was the youngest pairing in Class 1, Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen in Spirit of Norway 20, finishing fifth. "We are pretty pleased with that, but would have liked to have got back in front of Foresti & Suardi," said Tom. "The boat ran well but we still have issues with the steering, which we may decide to change, and that’s why we clouted the buoy."
Outside of the top five, there was a trail of disappointment. Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis, looked to be in control of the race on the opening laps and on course to put their title challenge back on track, when Spirit of Norway suffered a broken water hose, forcing them into the pits and despite returning to the race, were able to salvage only five points when engine problems forced them to stop. Negotiator’s miserable start to the season continued, leading the long list of retirements; SeveneleveN, Jotun, VM Foresti & Suardi and Qatar 95 all stopping with technical problems.
Victory team now head to Oslo for the Scandinavian Grand Prix on August 12, leading the title race, with Arif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez looking to make it three wins out of three.
1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen(UAE)/Sanchez (FR)
2. Qatar 96 – Al Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) + 00.43,98
3. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE) + 01.06,28
4. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/ Montavoci (ITA) + 02.41,39
5. Spirit of Norway 20 – Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Nilsen (NOR) + 04.01,81
6. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) + 3 laps
Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – dnf
VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli/K Olsen (NOR) - dnf
Jotun 90 – Zaborowski (NOR)/Tandberg (NOR) - dnf
SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – dnf
Negotiator 50 – Eker (NOR)/Parsonage (GB) – dnf
Championship Points – after round 2 of 8
1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen(UAE)/Sanchez (FR) – 42pts
2=. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE) – 31pts
2=. Qatar 96 – Al Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) – 31pts
4. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) – 16pts
5. Qatar 95 – Al Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 13pts
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 – M Pennesi (ITA)/ Montavoci (ITA) – 9pts
7=. SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – 7pt
7=. Spirit of Norway 20 – Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Nilsen (NOR) – 7pts
9. Negotiator 50 – Eker (NOR)/Parsonage (GB) – 4pts
10= Jotun 90 – Zaborowski (NOR)/Tandberg (NOR) - 0pts
10= VM Foresti & Suardi 2 – D Cirilli/K Olsen (NOR) – 0pts