June 7, 2007

Class 1 - Season Preview before start at Athens

If the last two seasons have seen nerve-tingling, edge-of-the-seat climaxes to the Class 1 World Powerboat Championship – in 2007, Class 1 looks set for one of its strongest seasons to date; a competitive fleet with new teams and line-ups, three new venues: Athens (Greece), Constanta (Romania) and El Alamein (Egypt), plus the return of Oslo (Norway) along with Arendal (Norway), Doha (Qatar) and Dubai (UAE) making up an impressive calendar, and a raft of new marketing initiatives adding to the mix for what promises to be a year to enthral and captivate. Eleven boats will line up for the season-opener in Palaio Faliro-Athens, Greece on Sunday, 10 June; five are proven race-winners, seven have won a pole position and eight have also grabbed podium finishes. And with new technical rulings and a new format to the EDOX Pole Position, all of which are designed to make the racing and competition closer, the outcome of the Greek Grand Prix, let alone the 2007 title race, is impossible to predict. If a favourite or winner is hard to pick, the team to beat is not. Spirit of Norway has over the last five seasons made the title their own, but know that they will face a fierce onslaught from their rivals, all of whom are desperate to end their reign. Gjelsten and Curtis, who, with 30 wins from 74 starts, seem happy with their set-up, hint at having made one or two ‘adjustments’ but stay with their trusty V12 engine package, and both will look at the list of new pairings with great interest. Victory 77, who has pushed Spirit to the brink for the last two years, start with newcomer Arif Saif Al Zafeen taking over the wheel from Mohammed Al Marri to team up with Jean-Marc Sanchez. Qatar 95, who grabbed their first win and finished third in the title race last season have also made a switch, with Luca Nicolini taking over as throttleman to join Al-Sulaiti. And whilst Spirit’s arch-rivals Qatar 96 maintain their line-up of Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani alongside Matteo Nicolini, they have switched from the V8 back to the SKEMA V12.Jotun, who also grabbed their first win in 2006 and enjoyed their best season to date finishing fourth, maintain the all-Norwegian pairing of Tandberg and Zaborowski, but switch back to the MTI and stay with the Mercury Class 1 V8. Chris Parsonage takes on his fourth partner in as many seasons, with the 2005 Class 1 World Champion, Bard Eker, stepping into the drivers’ seat in Negotiator with Parsonage opting to run Sterling V8s. Montavoci and Cirilli, another outfit to go well last season taking their first Pole Position win and two podiums, remain unchanged in Foresti&Suardi, as does Victory 7, with Nadir Bin Hendi and Ahmed Al-Suwaidi lining up for their second season together; Nicola Giorgi is still to name his driver in SeveneleveN, but confirms he will start the season in the Cougar.Two new teams entered this year sees an all-Italian line-up with Maurizio Ceschin returning to racing alongside Class 1 debutant, Enrico Ceriale in Overwave and 19 year-old Tom Barry-Cotter becoming the youngest competitor in Class 1 for over a decade, teaming up with Norwegian Pal Virik Nilsen in Spirit of Norway 20 to form this season’s youngest partnership.
VICTORY TEAM (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
# 7 Victory Ahmed Al Suwaidi (D) UAE / Nadir Bin Hendi (T) UAE
# 77 Victory Arif Saif Al Zafeen (D) UAE / Jean-Marc Sanchez (T) France
# 8 Foresti & Suardi Domenico Cirilli (D) Spain / Giampaolo Montavoci (T) Italy
# 10 Spirit of Norway Bjorn Rune Gjelsten (D) Norway / Steve Curtis MBE (T) England
# 20 Spirit of Norway Tom Barry-Cotter (D) Australia / Pal Virik Nilsen (T) Norway
# 11 Overwave Enrico Ceriale (D) Italy / Maurizio Ceschin (T) Italy
# 18 SeveneleveN TBC (D) / Nicola Giorgi (T) Italy
# 50 Negotiator Bard Eker (D) Norway / Chris Parsonage (T) England
# 90 Jotun Christian Zaborowski (D) Norway / Jorn Tandberg (T) Norway
# 95 Qatar Abdulla Al-Sulaiti (D) Qatar / Luca Nicolini (T) Italy
# 96 QatarHE Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani (D) Qatar / Matteo Nicolini (T) Italy

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