|Jotun's Inge Brigt Aarbakke and Jorn Tandberg were celebrating the team's first major title in over a decade, after winning today's Romanian Grand Prix to clinch the European Championship by one point from the unlucky Victory 1 crew of Mohammed Al Marri and Nadir Bin Hendi, with Qatar 95 finishing second and Victory 7 coming home in third place.
Despite a good start, the Mercury V8-powered Jotun trailed Victory 1, the championship leader's and pre-race favourites, into the first corner and could not match their extraordinary pace for the first quarter of the race, as Al Marri and Bin Hendi opened up an 18 second lead. But on lap 8 Jotun stormed passed Victory 1, who broke a propeller and slowed to a crawl, to take the lead, going on to win the race by 23seconds, completing the 21-lap, 92.27Nm Romanian Grand Prix in a time of 58m 00.65s. "I cannot describe how this feels," said Jorn Tandberg. "The win in Arendal was very nice but to win two in a row, I think this is even better and beyond our wildest expectations. And now we are the European Champions which is just fantastic for the team."
For Al Marri and Bin Hendi it was the cruellest outcome, as they saw their European title hopes fade, loosing four laps limping back to the pits. Despite a quick propeller change and a desperate attempt to make up places and points, an eventual seventh place meant they missed out on the title by one point. "Very sad, upset and disappointed but that's racing," said Bin Hendi. "You have your ups as well as downs. Before we broke the propeller the boat was flying and no one would have caught us. Now we have to look to the next race and focus on maintaining our lead in the World Championship."
In contrast to the disappointment felt in the Victory camp, Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini celebrated an impressive, trouble-free, second place in Qatar 95 on its debut race-outing running the Sterling V8 engines, and moved into third place in the World Championship standings, one place and three points ahead of their team-mates. "We made a very bad start and were only in fourth place at the first turn. We then made up some time on 96 and passed them when they made a mistake on their long lap - I don't know where they were going. We pushed hard for the whole race and to come second with a completely new engine package and have no problems is great news and for sure there is more to come." said Nicolini.
Despite losing his European crown to Jotun, Victory 7's Jean-Marc Sanchez and Mohammed Al Mehairbi seemed satisfied with their afternoon's work, making up two places from fifth place on the start line to take third spot and their fourth podium of the year, which now puts them just 10 points behind their team-mates in the race for the World title. For Qatar 96, after qualifying in third place but finishing fourth, and dropping down to fifth in the overall points standings, the day was summed up by Sheikh Hassan's comment - good morning bad afternoon - with Curtis simply acknowledging that they just messed up, making some very basic errors that cost them a very probable podium finish and a chance to make up ground on Championship leaders, Victory 1.
Giampaolo Montavoci and Kolbjorn Selmer's record for reliability remains intact after producing yet another very solid top six finish, with the Foresti & Suardi pairing ending their weekend on a positive note, taking fifth place. Giorgio Manuzzi and Nicola Giorgi were also back in the points, taking their second sixth place of the season. But there was a disappointing end to Roscioli Hotels Roma's race, with Domenico Cirilli and Sergio Carrasco retiring on lap 15 with technical problems, but the all-Spanish pairing picked up three points having completed 70% of the race distance.
Today's win for Jotun, their second in as many races, has put them right back in the fight for the World title, with the all-Norwegian crew now viewed by their rivals as real title contenders. And with Victory 1 dropping points, the championship standings have taken on a completely new complexion with just 21-points separating the top four boats.
Class 1 now heads to Porto Sokhna for the Egyptian Grand Prix, on October 24, one week later than originally scheduled.
ROMANIAN GRAND PRIX - results
1. Jotun 90 - IB Aarbakke (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) - 00.58.00,65
2. Qatar 95 - A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / M Nicolini (Italy) + 00.23,33
3. Victory 7 - A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) +01.01,39
4. Qatar 96 - H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) + 01.48,75
5. Foresti & Suardi 8 - K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) + 1lap
6. SeveneleveN 18 - G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) + 2laps
7. Victory 1 - M Al Marri (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) + 2laps
8. Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 - S Carrasco (Spain) / D Cirilli (Spain) + 7laps
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP - after round 4 of 4
1. Jotun 90 - 54pts
2. Victory 1 - 53pts
3. Victory 7 - 51pts
4. Qatar 95 - 46pts
5. Qatar 96 - 41pts
6. Foresti & Suardi 8 - 26pts
7. Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 - 11pts
8. SeveneleveN 18 - 5pts
Qatar 9 - 0pts Negotiator 50 - 0pts