New teams, outfits and drivers set the scene for coming offshore season

The fight for the 2008 WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship looks set to be the most fiercely and openly contested for almost a decade. Of the ten boats in the line-up, nine will field new crews while two new teams and three new drivers will be making their Class 1 debuts.

Victory will be lining up at the Qatar Grand, Doha on Saturday, March 1 with Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez, the 2007 World and European Champions, facing each other as team-rivals. Al Zafeen will run with the prestigious number one plate in Victory 1 and partnered by Nadir Bin Hendi, while throttleman Sanchez will have the task of guiding and developing the talents of the latest recruit to the Victory camp, Class 1 rookie, Abdullah Al Mehairbi, in Victory 7.

If there is pressure on Victory to successfully defend their titles this season – there is possibly greater pressure on Sheikh Hassan to try and deliver Qatar’s first world crown. He will come under intense scrutiny on his performance in Qatar 96 – the ex Spirit of Norway 10 – alongside the team’s ‘new boy’ Steve Curtis in the boat he won four of his eight world titles. Sheikh Hassan’s former throttleman Matteo Nicolini takes over in Qatar 95 alongside Abdullah Al-Sulaiti to rekindle a tried and tested partnership.

Europe’s challenge to the might of the Middle East, hoping to break the dominance of the V12 engines, will be headed by Negotiator, the only outfit in 2008 to field an unchanged line-up, with Chris Parsonage and Bard Eker, hoping to reap the rewards of a full season developing their Sterling Supercharged V8s.

A new-look for Jotun sees Bjorge Jacobsen taking the wheel in Doha – a role he will share with Class 1 newcomer Inge Brigt Aarbakke – to partner Jorn Tandberg, with the team running the much improved Mercury-Class 1, V8 units and bringing in American Jon Maas as Crew Chief in an effort to cure the reliability issues that thwarted Jotun‘s 2007 campaign.

Giorgioffshore will start 2008 with renewed optimism and fully confident that they will deliver a new level of performance. They have replaced their Cougar with a Michael Peters-designed, Victory hull powered by Giorgioffshore V12s. Giorgio Manuzzi, who made his Class 1 debut at the Egyptian Grand Prix last year, will be taking the wheel as partner to Nicola Giorgi in SeveneleveN. Giampaolo Montavoci also starts 2008 with a new wheel-man, Norwegian, Kolbjorn Selmer, who made his Class 1 debut last year, joining him in Foresti & Suardi. But it is likely that the pair – who have raced together twice before – will kick-off the season in the number two boat, the favoured outfit currently undergoing modifications in Italy.

New outfit Team One is expected to make its first appearance in the Championship in Doha, with Italian Lino di Biase the likely throttleman and Frenchman, Jerome Brarda in the driver’s seat, but the new all-Spanish team being brought together by Domenico Cirilli are likely to start their season at the second race of the year, the Montenegrin Grand Prix in Budva.

VICTORY TEAM (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

1 Victory – Arif Saif Al Zafeen (D) UAE / Nadir Bin Hendi (T) UAE

7 Victory – Abdullah Al Mehairbi (D) UAE / Jean-Marc Sanchez (T) France

VENETA MARINA (Italy)

8 Foresti & Suardi – Kolbjorn Selmer (D) Norway / Giampaolo Montavoci (T) Italy

GIORGIOFFSHORE (Italy)

18 SeveneleveN – Giorgio Manuzzi (D) Italy / Nicola Giorgi (T) Italy

TEAM ONE (France)

20 – Jerome Brarda (D) France / Lino di Biase (T) Italy

CHRIS PARSONAGE RACING (England)

50 Negotiator – Bard Eker (D) Norway / Chris Parsonage (T) England

DUEMME BROKER (Spain)

88 – Sergio Mora Carrasco (D) Spain / Domenico Cirilli (T) Spain

UGLAND OFFSHORE RACING (Norway)

90 Jotun – Bjorge Jacobsen (D) Norway / Jorn Tandberg (T) Norway

QATAR TEAM (Qatar)

95 Qatar – Abdullah Al-Sulaiti (D) Qatar / Matteo Nicolini (T) Italy

96 Qatar – HE Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani (D) Qatar / Steve Curtis (T) England