BMW Norwegian Grand Prix 2011 – Spirit of Qatar looking for a win

UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship ABU DAHBI Grand Prix 2011
Raffaello Bastiani
BMW Norwegian Grand Prix 2011 is being held in Arendal, Norway from 15th to 17th July.

Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis will lead the Spirit of Qatar Team’s two-boat attack out onto the fjords of Arendal for next week’s Grand Prix looking for the win that has so far eluded them since they teamed-up in 2008.

And whilst they [Sheikh Hassan and Curtis] have enjoyed considerable success together, winning six times and lifting both national and world titles racing in America, they have had to settle for podium finishes - six - from their 12 starts together in Class 1.

The team made an impressive return to the Championship earlier this year visiting the podium four times. Sheikh Hassan and Curtis grabbed two second places with rookie Ali Al Neama, making his Class 1 debut alongside the experienced Matteo Nicolini, also stepping onto the podium twice, finishing third in qualifying and in race two.

Curtis is not unduly fazed by the situation and believes it is just a matter of time before the win comes. 'It is a little frustrating especially when you look at the results we have had in other series,' he said. 'I think it is also clear that reliability, or lack of it, was our ‘achilles heel’ at the beginning and probably cost us the odd win.'

After the season-opener in Abu Dhabi the team took-up residence at its new European base in Southampton, and has carried out extensive modifications on both boats. 'We knew from the first races that our boat [96] was off the pace and was actually slower in terms of acceleration than 95,' said Curtis. 'We have worked on changes to the hull, carving out the steps at the back, which should improve its overall performance. Now we have to concentrate on the set-up to suit the shorter tighter circuits and calmer conditions we face in Class 1 as opposed to rougher seas and the proper open water courses in America.

Spirit of Qatar - Class 1 Powerboat Italian Grand Prix 2011

'On Matteo and Ali’s boat there was an issue with the driveshaft which was related to the introduction of the torque sensors, so we have re-angled them and realigned both engines. We have also put the new steering system that we use into their boat.'

Whilst Curtis is the only member of the team and one of only five of this season’s 22 competitors to have won in Arendal - in 2002 with Bjorn Gjelsten - both Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini will be hoping their previous successes on Norwegian fjords will carry over to Arendal next week - albeit now racing in opposing boats - the pair winning in Oslo in 2004 and in Trondheim in 2005, the year they won the European Championship.

Curtis is relishing the team’s return to Arendal and to racing on one of the tour’s great circuits, but he remains a fan of the times when the course ran around the outside of the island of Tromoy. 'It’s a challenging course inside and you feel very enclosed,' he said. 'The start and first lap is unique and despite the two long straights it is a course where overtaking can be difficult. I would love to see a return to racing outside, where rough seas are guaranteed… offshore conditions are a great equalizer.'

UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship website