|Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis were the early pace setters in today's first official practice session for Sunday's Scandinavia Grand Prix, round 3 of the WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, with Spirit of Norway posting the fastest time of 2mins 31.82secs around the 4.6Nm course on Oslo fjord, on their final lap of the session. Qatar 96's Sheikh Hassan and Matteo Nicolini went second fastest, three seconds adrift with championship leader's Arif Al Zaffen and Jean-Marc Sanchez, a further three seconds behind, posting the third fastest time, but ending the session prematurely with a broken engine.|
Of the eleven boats that will line up on Sunday, several used today's session to try out new driver line-ups, Talib Al Saeed, stepping in for Ahmed Al Suwaidi to partner Nadir bin Hendi in Victory 7 - the new pairing posting a very credible fourth fastest ahead of Qatar 95 - with Norwegian, Kolbjorn Selmer, making his debut behind the wheel of a Class 1 powerboat, joining Giampaolo Montavoci in Foresti&Suardi.
After a frustrating opening to their season, Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker were at last able to run 11 uninterrupted laps, gradually bringing their times down to grab sixth quickest, before an oil pressure problem shut down one engine, forcing them back to the pits.
For Gjelsten and Curtis, a podium finish on Sunday - if not a win - is crucial to their title defence. "We were quite hard on the boat on the early laps to see if the work we have carried out since Arendal has resolved the problems we have had," said Curtis. "After that we tried out different lines and were happy the session. We know we have the speed and a good boat and have done all that is possible to give us reliability. Now we have to complete race distance without any problems"