Curtis and Gjelsten take the wrong turn

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Steve Curtis and Bjorn Gjelsten were edged into third place in the Class One British Powerboat Grand Prix here after a mistake on the fifth lap cost them the race lead and ultimately deprived them of the opportunity to secure a victory that they desperately needed to keep their championship hopes alive.

The Anglo-Norwegian pairing powered their 160mph Lamborghini-engined Spirit of Norway into the lead from the start of the 16-lap, 121-mile British Grand Prix and looked to be controlling the race with both the powerful Victory team boats giving chase. But their hopes were dealt a serious blow on the fifth lap when they missed a turn buoy. That meant Curtis and Gjelsten had to stop and turn back in order to pass the mark correctly. That laborious manoeuvre cost them valuable time and handed the race lead to Saeed Al Tayer and Mohammed Al Marri in Victory 7.

"It was driver error," said a bitterly disappointed Gjelsten, who is one of Wimbledon football club's Norwegian owners. "We had the race but I missed the buoy – I made a mistake – it's as simple as that."

The error certainly simplified the race. Once Victory 7 had taken the lead, the contest developed into a private duel with Victory 1, while Curtis and Gjelsten threw caution to the wind in a desperate effort to claw back the time that they had lost.

But the two-pronged Victory attack proved too strong for them to combat, with Tayer and Marri going on to collect the win by just two seconds ahead of their team-mates, Nasser and Qama, in Victory 1.

No matter that there was disappointment that the British challenge failed to provide a success to celebrate, the fleet of spectator boats out on Plymouth Sound and the tens of thousands of spectators who lined Plymouth Hoe enjoyed a unique spectacle put on by a modern day "Armada" of 11 of the world's fastest powerboats. As the pop band Five rehearsed on the Hoe for a television appearance, they were drowned out by the unmistakable screech of the Lamborghini engine that marked the return of Class One Powerboats to British shores after an absence of nearly a decade.

As the Victory Team enjoyed the applause and accolades of what was obviously a popular win, the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Chris Parsonage, the man who had brought powerboats back to England and to Plymouth for the next five years.