After seven months and six races, the outcome of the 2004 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship will be decided in the final two rounds in Dubai.

After seven months and six races, the outcome of the 2004 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship will be decided by the final two rounds in Dubai. Now tied on 80 points, what separates Ali Nasser and Ali Al Qama in Victory 7 and the defending champions Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis driving Spirit of Norway is simply the self-belief and the will to go out and win the most coveted prize in world powerboat racing – The Sam Griffith Trophy.

The first act to be played out is the Nakheel Grand Prix on Friday, 3 December sponsored by Dubai’s premiere real estate developer. Fittingly the drama will unfold on a spectacular course in the shadow of one of Nakheel’s most impressive projects, The Palm Jumeirah and within sight of another, The World.

“Dubai has a played an important role in the development of powerboat racing in the Middle East and Nakheel has reinforced the Emirate’s support of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship. It has provided the backing for a second Grand Prix to be staged here this year,” commented Saeed Hareb, Managing Director of Dubai International Marine Club.

“This was a vital development following the rescheduling of the calendar and it is fitting that two of Nakheel’s landmark developments attracting world attention will effectively share centre stage in the climax to the championship.”

What a climax it promises to be. Victory 7 may have seen their 13-point championship lead disappear after Spirit of Norway won both races in Doha last week, but if there is an advantage to be had, Victory has it. They are on home waters that both Victory crews know better than anyone. If, as in past years, the Shamal winds blow setting a nasty sea, it will be down to which boat has the better rough water set-up. Al Qama said in Doha that he hopes for rough conditions “That would suit us” and Curtis acknowledges this:

“I know they have a good set-up for the rough and right now we don’t – but we will have.”
One factor that might change everything is reliability and whilst all the attention is focused on the two boats tied at the top – the championship is not, by any means, a two-boat race. Should either Victory 7 or Spirit of Norway falter, Victory 77 and Qatar 96 – both capable of winning in Dubai and still in the hunt – are waiting to pounce.

Mohammed Al Marri and Jean Marc Sanchez, Victory 77 in their first season together have already raced to three podium finishes, whilst Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96 have a win under their belts as well as two podiums.
The scrap to finish in the top six will be as fierce and just four points separate GFN Gibellato, Negotiator and Jotun. Montavoci and Cirilli have shown that reliability is an effective weapon and with points in every race, GFN will be looking to stave off the challenges of the two more powerful outfits.

Both Parsonage and McGrath in Negotiator and Bellmann and Hillestad in Jotun have shown on several occasions that they have the pace to mix it at the front, with both outfits finding the podium this year and should they produce their best, may well have a say in the outcome of the overall championship.

After a frustrating week in Doha for Hydrolift’s Bard Eker and Ricardo Brkovic and Roscioli Hotel’s Nicola Giorgi and Mauro Esperto, the target is to end the season on a reliable and positive note. And completing the line-up, the focus for Edoardo Polli and Lamberto Leoni is to continue to put the Mercury HP1075sci V8 through its paces and to learn as much as possible about the characteristics of what Polli says is a ‘fantastic engine’.

So the scene is set for a nail-biting finale to this year’s title race and Nakheel’s flagship property, The Palm Jumeirah, will play a central role in both the Nakheel Grand Prix and the final round of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, the Dubai Grand Prix on Friday, 10 December. In both cases, the practice sessions, Pole Position and the 18-lap, 92.70Nm.

Grands Prix will take place between the coastline and the spectacular development which is being hailed as the eighth wonder of the world. And for the first time, world championship powerboat racing will enter the calm waters inside The Palm Jumeirah for a special event on Tuesday, 7 December, The Palm Speed Record, which replaces the Pole Position from last week’s Qatar Grand Prix. But before competition begins, the teams will be a given a unique introduction to The World, Nakheel’s development of 300 man-made islands in the shape of the world map which is the venue for the drivers’ briefing and the official welcome dinner.

Overall Championship Positions – after six rounds
1. Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 80pts
2.Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 80pts
3. Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 58pts
4. Qatar – Al-Thani/Nicolini 56pts
5.GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 34pts
6. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 33pts
7. Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 30pts
8. Hydrolift – Eker/Jacobsen 20pts
9=Highlander – Polli/Corti 12pts
9=Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto 12pts

Overall Pole Position Championship – after five rounds
1.Spirit of Norway – Gjelsten/Curtis 95pts
2. Victory 7 – Nasser/Al Qama 63pts
3.Victory 77 – Al Marri/Sanchez 60pts
4. Qatar – Al-Thani/Nicolini 43pts
5.Jotun – Bellmann/Hillestad 37pts
6. Negotiator – Parsonage/McGrath 26pts
7.GFN Gibellato – Montavoci/Cirilli 17pts
8.Roscioli Hotels – Giorgi/Esperto 15pts
9. Highlander – Polli/Corti 13pts
10. Hydrolift – Eker/Jacobsen 8pts