KEY WEST, USA: Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani and throttleman Steve Curtis finished second overall and second in the Superboat Unlimited class in race one at the 32nd Annual Key West World Championships in Florida yesterday.
At the helm of Spirit of Qatar 96 and running in gusting north-westerly winds that made racing conditions even more difficult, the Qatar Team duo tackled the 6.75-lap, 43-mile race alongside 11 other rivals in the Superboat Unlimited (two), Superboat (seven) and Turbine (two) classes.
The race developed into a fascinating contest between Marc Granet and Scott Begovich in Miss Geico and Tor Staubo and John Tomlinson in Gasse 8. The pair were neck and neck for several laps, until Miss Geico slowed to the finish and Gasse took the chequered flag from Spirit of Qatar 96, with Miss Geico limping to the flag in third.
“The race was all about horse power and the top two boats had more than we did and we also had a gearbox problem that cost us performance,” admitted Sheikh Hassan, the president of the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) and driver of Spirit of Qatar 96.
Spirit of Qatar 96 was down on power on many of its main American rivals and Sheikh Hassan openly admitted that the Qatar crew needed very rough conditions to give their boat a competitive edge. Aqua Mania G3 and Miss Geico used their extra power and made the best start among the Unlimited and Turbine boats, with the seven Superboat crews starting behind the first five entrants.
Gasse 8’s Tor Staubo and John Tomlinson held the advantage at the end of lap one, with Miss Geico and Spirit of Qatar 96 running in second and third from the two turbine boats, Semper Fi and Aqua Mania G3.
The Australian Maritimo boat held the advantage in the Superboat category. Gasse continued to lead from Miss Geico and Spirit of Qatar 96 through lap two and JD Byrider passed Stihl and a slowing Maritimo to lead the Superboat class.
Miss Geico held the inside line from Gasse through lap three before losing time at a tight turn, as Sheikh Hassan held a solid third overall from the turbine boats.
JD Byrider spun on lap three of the Superboat race, as Gasse, Miss Geico and Spirit of Qatar 96 held station in Superboat Unlimited and Stihl snatched the lead from WHM Motorsports in the Superboat class.
Miss Geico managed to pass Gasse on the start/finish line and snatch the overall lead for the first time - with Spirit of Qatar 96 in third position - but Gasse managed to regain the lead on the same lap and Miss Geico slowed soon afterwards with mechanical problems and limped to the finish behind Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis in Spirit of Qatar. Stihl went on to win the Superboat race from WHM Motorsports.
The Lucas Oil 77 crew of Swede Michael Silfverberg and Californian Nigel Hook won the first of the three Superboat Extreme class races, with the Mercury-engined Instigator taking second position and the Florida boat - Twisted Metal Motorsports - slotting into the final podium place.
The second and third of the three races at the famous racing festival will take place today and Sunday. The Peninsula