April 11, 2011

Class 1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2011 Preview

Ten boats will line up off Lulu Island for next week's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, 13-15 April, round 1 of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, for what promises to be an intriguing season-opener.
A raft of new technical rulings, a promise of strict enforcement of regulations, new teams and driver line-ups and the return of Spirit of Qatar all add spice to a season where the form book of previous years may have little bearing.
The season-opener sees the Class 1 Championship fielding one of its most competitive fleets in recent years; three Middle East teams take on six from Europe, seven of the ten outfits opting to run V12 power-plants over V8, with four World Champions lining-up in Abu Dhabi.
Reverting to running in the more familiar blue colours of Victory Team, Arif Al Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi shoulder full responsibility as the Dubai team's sole entry.
The Champions have dominated the last two seasons and set-out in defence of their World, European and Middle East titles looking to add to their 21 career-wins apiece as they start their campaign to try to lift an eleventh world title for the team.
Team Abu Dhabi will be hoping to benefit from home advantage, with Emirati Rashed Al Tayer and American race-ace, John Tomlinson, who won the World and European titles in 1997, looking to kick-start their season with a repeat of last year's win on home waters.
Lining up in Class 1 for the first time in 18 months, Spirit of Qatar fields a two-boat attack; Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and eight-times World Champion Steve Curtis lead the team's assault as the Qatari outfit bids for its first World crown, and they in turn look for their first win in Class 1 since teaming-up in 2008. Matteo Nicolini, who won the European title alongside Sheikh Hassan in 2005 and grabbed the team's last win in the championship in Dubai in 2008, partners Class 1 rookie, Ali Al Neama. Spirit of Qatar 95 and 96 will both run Skema-Lamborghini V12s.
Norwegian hopes for success hang with Welmax and Relekta - both running Mercury-Class 1 V8s.
Welmax's all-Norwegian partnership of Kolbjorn Selmer and Jorn Tandberg will be aiming for the perfect start to the defence of their Edox Pole Position crown, and intent on taking their first outright race-win together to add to their ten podium finishes and five pole position wins since joining forces in 2009.
A revised driver line-up sees Zabo Racing, who made their championship debut in Norway last season, taking their first podium in Abu Dhabi, bring in Turkish driver Ugur Isik, back racing in Class 1 for the first time in over a decade, to partner race and pole position winner Christian Zaborowski in Relekta.
Of the three all-Italian pairings, two are new team entries but all three are experienced partnerships.
Fendi Racing's Luca Formilli Fendi and Giovanni Carpitella - a double race winner in 2010 - have put their plans to run their new Outerlimits boat-engine package on hold for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and will unveil it in Norway, and run a Michael Peters-designed Victory built hull with Victory V12 engines.
GiorgiOffshore stay with the same boat-engine package and driver line-up that ended 2010, but with Nicola Giorgi, set to start his 75th Grand Prix, behind the wheel and Tomaso Polli taking the throttles in the Victory built, SCAM-Lamborghini powered MITI Tech Power.
DAC Racing's Guido Cappellini and Giampaolo Montavoci maintain their partnership that began in Brazil last year with a podium and ended the year with a podium, running a Michael Peters-designed Tencara powered by Mercury-Class 1 V8s.
Plymouth based Chris Parsonage Racing also run a new driver line-up with Italian Giorgio Manuzzi starting a fifth term in Class 1 alongside his former teammate at Maritimo Racing, Norway's Pål Virik Nilsen.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets underway with first practice on Wednesday afternoon. A second practice on Thursday morning is immediately followed by qualifying in the Edox Pole Position with race 1 in the afternoon. A final practice session on Friday morning is followed by race 2.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi - UAE
Wednesday, 13 April
12.30 drivers course viewing on Class 1 rib
14.00-16.00 official practice
Thursday, 14 April
09.30-10.00 official practice
10.15-11.30 Edox Pole Position
15.30 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - race 1
Friday, 15 April
09.30-11.00 official practice
15.30 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - race 2