October 12, 2011

Class 1 - Italy Grand Prix 2011 Preview

Ten boats will line up on Italy’s Lake Como this week, October 14-16 when Cernobbio hosts the Italian Grand Prix, round 3 of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship and the title decider for the 2011 European Championship.
Whilst it is not the first time that Class 1 has graced the waters of Lake Como, the late Bruno Abbate organising a special event in October 1987 which was won by former Italian tennis champion Adriano Panatta it is a first for hosts Cernobbio and the first time that the fleet rolls out for an official round of the World Championship.
Victory’s Arif Al Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi lead the World Championship standings and will be intent on retaining their European crown, but the defending Champions will have to come from behind and overturn a five point deficit to do so, after losing out to their arch-rivals Spirit of Qatar 96 in Norway.
The Emirati-duo, who won the season-openers in Abu Dhabi, have won three out of the last four races in Italy, and will be looking for their 24th career-wins to extend Victory Team’s enviable record on Italian water’s, winning 14-times in 13 years, their [team] first win coming in 1993 in Ischia.
The return of the Spirit of Qatar Team has added spice to the Championship as their rivalry with their Middle East cousins intensifies on and off the water. Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis’ victory in Norway ended their 12-race win-drought, and they now go in search of their first major Class 1 title together - Curtis hunting down a record fifth European crown and Sheikh Hassan a second, on what will be his 50th Grand Prix outing. The team has made one or two upgrades and worked on modifications to improve performance, specifically acceleration which Curtis believes is crucial for the type of courses being run these days.
But Sheikh Hassan and Curtis will also need to keep very close tabs on teammates Ali Al Neama and Matteo Nicolini - who lines up for his 100th Grand Prix and the last Italian to win a major Class 1 trophy lifting the European title in 2005 - who have out-gunned them in both qualifying sessions this season and sit behind them in the standings, after taking two podium finishes.
Two outfits looking to end a long and well overdue wait for an Italian win on home waters - the last by Edoardo Polli and Lamberto Leoni in Tarranto in 1997 - are DAC Racing and Fendi Racing; Guido Cappellini and Giampaolo Montavoci lead the all-Italian challengers in the World and European title races and, after carrying out further modifications to their DAC 40 Poliform, will be looking to improve on their fourth place in Norway and step-up to challenge for their first win together.
Fendi Racing’s first outing with their new Outerlimits boat-engine package did not give Luca Formilli Fendi and Giovanni Carpitella the performance or results they were expecting, with the team announcing an immediate switch of engine supplier after only one outing with the Outerlimits Powertrain SCI 850 V8s, confirming that they have signed an agreement with SCAM Technology to run their 8.2litre V12 engines, stating that the American engines need a further period of development.
Further Italian interest will focus on GiorgiOffshore, who return to racing with an upgraded boat after missing the last event, with Nicola Giorgi lining-up alongside Sandro Sardelli in MITI Tech Power, the partnership teaming-up for the first time in Abu Dhabi in 2010, taking two fifth place finishes.
Team D’Alessio-SCAM make their first appearance in the Championship with the experienced Luca Nicolini, who made his Class 1 debut in 1993 and has 14 starts under his belt, taking two podium finishes in 2007, on the throttles in the Victory built, V12 powered FA.RO. ACCIAI., with Belgium’s Frank Hemelaer set to make his Class 1 driving debut.
Team Abu Dhabi has announced an eleventh-hour call-up for F1H2O star Ahmed Al Hameli who steps in to substitute for Rashed Al Tayer, forced to sit out the event after picking up an injury at a Jet Ski event in America. Al Hameli, who made his Class 1 debut in 2009, teams-up with fellow-Emirati Majed Al Mansoori - both making just their second Grand Prix starts in Class 1.
An unexpected announcement by Welmax Offshore Racing sees a revised driver line-up with the 2010 Edox Pole Position Champions Kolbjorn Selmer and Jorn Tandberg stepping aside and Bjorge Jacobsen and Kurt Olsen stepping in to take over race duties. The team has also opted to run the Maritimo hull over the MTI, retaining the name Welmax.
Zabo Racing’s Ugur Isik and Christian Zaborowski will be looking to improve on their performances after picking up just ten points from three outings in Relekta, and will arrive in Italy confident that they can turn things around. Team principal Jan Zaborowski has confirmed that they have made considerable modifications to the Victory hull, which they debuted in Norway, and that they will be in good shape in Italy.
The Grand Prix weekend gets underway with first official practice at midday on Friday. A second practice session, qualifying in the Edox Pole Position and race 1 take place on Saturday, with a final practice session on Sunday morning followed by race 2 in the afternoon.