World offshore championship battle tightens

Dubai’s Victory Team will be without defending Class 1 World and European Champion, Arif Saif Al Zafeen, when the rivalry between the top two teams is reignited at the second round of the World Class I offshore championship at this weekend’s Hypo Group Montenegrin Grand in Budva.

Victory 1‘s Al Zafeen, winner of the opening Edox Pole Position and Grand Prix of the season in Qatar in March is forced to sit out the race on medical advice after sustaining serious back injuries in a crash during a Formula 2 race in Egypt several weeks ago. But whilst the loss of Al Zafeen, who has won five Grand’s Prix from just nine starts, is a bitter blow for the team, Victory has been able to call on the services of former World and Middle East Champion, Mohammed Al Marri – a veteran of 55 Grand’s Prix to step into the driver’s seat.

Victory‘s main championship rivals, Qatar 96, will see this enforced change as an opportunity to put pressure on the championship leaders and close the gap in the title race by taking their first win of the season. And although Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis will be running their spare boat for a second consecutive race – after wrecking their number one boat in Qatar – a switch from the Mercury-Class1 V8s back to Skema V12 engines, and considerable modifications to Qatar 96 carried out by Nicolini Offshore in Italy, may well give them the extra edge they need.

Whilst the Victory and Qatar camps will be intent on maintaining their early stranglehold on the top four positions in the championship standings – Victory 7‘s Abdullah Al Mehairbi and World and European Championship winning throttleman, Jean-Marc Sanchez lying in third place ahead of Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 95 – any challenge to their race hopes could well depend largely on the conditions that the teams will face in Budva, when they line up for the 23-lap, 94.50Nm Hypo Group Montenegrin Grand Prix. If the seas on the outside leg of the course around the Island of Sveti Nikola are rough, Foresti & Suardi and Jotun may well be amongst the challengers for podium positions.

Foresti & Suardi‘s Italian-Norwegian pairing are back in their favoured number one race boat and have clocked up the miles testing on Italy’s Lake Iseo in the last two weeks, and Giampaolo Montavoci and Kolbjorn Selmer are hoping that they can build on their fifth place in the season opener. Ugland Offshore Racing will be looking to kick-start their title challenge and put points on the board after seeing a probable podium finish slip from their grasp in the last race, and the all-Norwegian crew of Jorn Tandberg and Bjorge Jacobsen will be boosted by the fact that their Mercury-Class 1, V8 powered race boat, Jotun, has undergone a significant overhaul in recent weeks.

Giorgioffshore’s Nicola Giorgi and Giorgio Manuzzi produced a very solid top-six finish last time out, and will be looking to build on their performance and expect an improved showing when they line up in Budva in only their second outing in their Michael Peters-designed Victory-built hull, SeveneleveN, with the all-new Spanish outfit of Domenico Cirilli and Sergio Carrasco in Roscioli Hotels Roma and Jerome Brarda’s American-based, Windmare Racing, making their 2008 debuts this weekend.
First practice takes place on Friday 23, followed by a second session and the Edox Pole Position on Saturday, with a final practice before Sunday afternoon’s 23-lap, 94.50Nm Hypo Group Montenegrin Grand Prix.

CLASS 1 WORLD POWERBOAT CHAMPIONSHIP – after round 1 of 8

1. Victory 1 – A Al Zafeen (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 20pts

2. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 15pts

3. Victory 7 – A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 12pts

4. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / Matteo Nicolini (Italy) – 9pts

5. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – 7pts

6. SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – 5pts

7. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (Norway) / C Parsonage (England) – 4pts

Jotun 90 – B Jacobsen (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway)

White 4 – M Al Nasser (Qatar) / L Nicolini (Italy)

Windmare 21 – J Brarda (France) / TBC

Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 – S Carrasco (Spain) / D Cirilli (Spain)

EDOX POLE POSITION CHAMPIONSHIP – after round 1 of 8

1. Victory 1 – A Al Zafeen (UAE) / N Bin Hendi (UAE) – 20pts

2. Qatar 96 – H Al-Thani (Qatar) / S Curtis (England) – 15pts

3. Qatar 95 – A Al-Sulaiti (Qatar) / Matteo Nicolini (Italy) – 12pts

4. Jotun 90 – B Jacobsen (Norway) / J Tandberg (Norway) – 9pts

5. Negotiator 50 – B Eker (Norway) / C Parsonage (England) – 7pts

6. White 4 – M Al Nasser (Qatar) / L Nicolini (Italy) – 5pts

7. Victory 7 – A Al Mehairbi (UAE) / JM Sanchez (France) – 4pts

8. Foresti & Suardi 8 – K Selmer (Norway) / G Montavoci (Italy) – 3pts

9. SeveneleveN 18 – G Manuzzi (Italy) / N Giorgi (Italy) – 2pts

Windmare 21 – J Brarda (France) / TBC

Roscioli Hotels Roma 88 – S C