After an extended break Class I heads to Doha for the Qata Duty Free Grand Prix (18-20 November), round five of the UIM World Powerboat Championship, round one of the Class I Middle East Championship and the start of an intensive schedule of competition in the Middle East with four races in 21 days.

After an extended break Class 1 heads to Doha for the Qatar Duty Free Grand Prix (18-20 November), round five of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, round one of the Class 1 Middle East Championship and the start of an intensive schedule of competition in the Middle East with four races in 21 days. And with just 21 points separating the top four, three different Grand Prix winners this season and the podium slots shared by a further four teams, the championship race is too close to call and is destined to go to the wire.
Despite a disastrous start to their title aspirations, Qatar’s Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini have turned their season around and hit a rich vein of form at exactly the right time. A third place in Plymouth was followed by an emphatic and historic first win in Oslo and one that Sheikh Hassan will be looking to emulate at his team’s home Grand Prix.
“The win in Oslo was great for myself and the entire team,” he said. “We have made some changes to the boat since Oslo and introduced improvements to the handling characteristics. We feel that the boat should be more stable and this should give us a higher top speed. Last year was an exciting race and it would be great for us if we could win in front of a big home crowd.”
Victory Team head to Doha in search of their first win there but know that they hold the whip hand in the title race and with both charges in the top three, are sensing that 2004 could be their year. The newly crowned European Champions Ali Nasser and Ali Al Qama, Victory 7 lead the standings by 13 points with their team mates Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez in third and snapping at the heels of the defending World Champions Spirit of Norway, currently the meat in a Victory sandwich, but are taking nothing for granted.
“We decided to bring Victory 7 back to Dubai early in order to carry out a few modifications to get her up to speed.” said Al Qama. “Testing has gone well and there has been a definite improvement in the overall attitude and positioning of the boat and Ali (Nasser) and I are extremely satisfied with the performance.”
For Gjelsten and Curtis aboard Spirit of Norway a win in Doha or at least a finish ahead of Victory is a must get result. After two consecutive retirements the Anglo-Norwegian partnership has reverted to their old set up, opting to run with the external drop boxes and working on the premise that what they lose inperformance they will gain in reliability.
If the championship may seem like a distant prospect for Bernhard Bellmann and Jann Hillestad in Jotun, currently lying fifth, a podium in Doha on their current form is a distinct possibility. And like Qatar they are on a roll and will be looking for their third consecutive podium finish.
With just 12 points separating the remainder of the fleet the battle for points and position is also likely to intensify. Giampaolo Montavoci and Domenico Cirilli in GFN Gibellato will be looking to maintain their record of scoring points in every round with four top six finishes and a switch of engines may give them an added boost. But looking to move up the standings and to having a trouble free run in Doha are Chris Parsonage and Peter McGrath in Negotiator, whose season has been dogged by misfortune.
Hydrolift, like GFN, have switched engines for the second half of the season and field a different line-up in Doha with Bard Eker switching to throttles and Dutchman Ricardo Brkovic stepping in to make his Class 1 debut after winning the Pro-vee Championship with Luca Nicolini. And Nicola Giorgi and Mauro Esperto in Roscioli Hotels will hope to find the reliability that has already given them two top six finishes this season.
Whilst the main focus of attention will be on the championship race a great deal of interest will be on the performance of Highlander. Edoardo Polli is joined in the cockpit by Lamberto Leoni and will be giving the Mercury HP1075Sci, V8s their first competitive run in Class 1, although will not be eligible for championship points.
Doha Bay is the setting for the 19-lap, 94.04Nm Qatar Duty Free Grand Prix on a revised course running in front of the Corniche – but with any one of five boats a potential race winner the outcome is impossible to predict.
UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship Overall Championship Positions after four races
1. Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 53pts 2. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 40pts 3. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 39pts 4. Qatar – Al-Thani/Nicolini 32pts 5. Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 27pts 6. GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 24pts 7. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 17pts 8. Hydrolift – Eker/Jacobsen 16pts 9= Highlander – Polli/Corti 12pts 9= Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto 12pts
Overall Pole Position standings
1. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 75pts 2. Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 54pts 3. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 45pts 4. Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 32pts 5. Qatar – Al-Thani/Nicolini 31pts 6. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 19pts 7= GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 13pts 7= Highlander – Polli/Corti 13pts 7= Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto 13pts 10. Hydrolift – Eker/Jacobsen 5pts