November 28, 2007

Class 1 - Dubai U.A.E. Mina Seyahi Preview

After an enthralling and compelling season, where spectacular racing has been matched by intense rivalries on and off the water, the final throws of the dice to decide the 2007 WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship will unfold with two races in a week in Dubai, and the stage is set for yet another nail-biting finale, as the two remaining title challengers go head-to-head after a gruelling, season-long tussle. Victory 77 will line up for next weekend’s Mina Seyahi Grand Prix, round 7 of the WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, tantalisingly close to lifting their first World title and a record seventh for the mighty Dubai-based, Victory Team. If they finish ahead of their title rivals, the championship is theirs. It has been a stellar season for Sanchez and Al Zafeen, racing together for the first time. They won the season opener in Athens, with Al Zafeen becoming the first rookie to win on his Class 1 debut and two wins later, in Romania, became the first rookie, and Sanchez the first Frenchman, to win the Class 1 European Championship. Their fourth win of the season last time out at the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha means they head into the penultimate race of the season with a 22-point advantage over their nearest rivals in the overall race for honours and a slender two point lead in the Middle East Championship. Standing between Victory 77 and the title that they are so desperate to bring home, is Qatar 96, who simply have to finish ahead of Victory 77 and by a margin of three points or more if they are to take the battle for the World Championship down to the final race of the season, the Dubai Grand Prix on Saturday, 8 December. Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini are enjoying their best season to date, and with six podiums on the bounce are sure to keep the pressure on the leaders until the very last lap. Spirit of Norway’s tenure as World Champions effectively ended in Qatar, when they limped out of the race on lap 15 with engine problems, but could still add the Middle East Championship to the Edox Pole Position Championship - which they clinched in Doha with their fifth consecutive win in qualifying - by winning the final two races. Outside of the lead trio, just 24 points separate the next five boats and the scramble for points and to be the best-of-the-rest may well become an unwelcome headache for Victory 77 and Qatar 96 as they fight it out for the title. Victory 7 lead the chasing pack, and are undoubtedly quick, but have lacked the consistency seen in the opening two rounds, but if they pull it all together on race day, they will certainly be amongst the front runners. Currently lying fifth is Qatar 95, are the pick of those running V8s, and fourth place in Arendal, a podium in Romania and fourth again in Qatar confirm their credentials. The most improved outfit over the last three races is Negotiator, the only outfit in the championship running Sterling V8s, taking fifth, fourth and a podium last time out, and sees them on a hard-charge and climbing up the championship standings. Just two points behind them is Foresti & Suardi, who, after competing in the last two races in his second boat, is expected to be back in his favoured raceboat. Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen will be trying to repeat the performances that have produced three top six finishes in their first season together, and will be aiming to add another, with Nicola Giorgi and Tomaso Polli hoping to see out the season in the Cougar with some solid points finishes. Whilst Jotun will simply be wondering when the run of bad luck that has blighted their season, will end, and will be praying that they have a trouble-free race to realise their pace and potential. The race weekend kicks off with official practice on Thursday, 29 November and the first opportunity for the teams to familiarise themselves with a revised course. A second practice session on Friday morning is followed by the Edox Pole Position in the afternoon and a final practice session on Saturday morning, followed by the Mina Seyahi Grand Prix.

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