Newcomer Ivan Brigada from Italy wins opening round of the 2006 World Championship Formula 1

Newcomer Ivan Brigada from Italy has confounded the pundits by winning the opening round of the 2006 World Championship Formula I championship in Qatar. He survived the high winds and rough surface conditions which had the veterans including fellow Italian and defending world champion, Guido Cappellini, throttling back. Punishment was such that less than half the fleet lasted the full distance.

Thousands of spectators watched the young driver show his outstanding talent and possible future in Formula I as he out drove three time World Champion Scott Gillman of the United States into second place.

Brigada, who had pole, held off a tough challenge from Scott Gillman as they headed for the first turn. But once he beat Gillman, he never looked back and continually took control of the race even after four restarts.

While these two leaders stayed in close contention for most of the race, the battle astern was heating up as Italian Francesco Cantando lying fourth crashed out the seventh lap.

Franco Leidi, back from a two year retirement, later crashed on the 13th ending his race. On the restart, Cappellini, who was pushing for fourth slot blew his engine which eventually caught fire leaving him ashore for the rest of the day.

The most serious accident came on the 29th lap when local driver Mohamed Al Ali of the Qatar Team, driving a new boat, barrel rolled in the lower turning marker and was sent to hospital in critical condition.

The race continued after the final restart and as the laps wore down French pilot Philippe Dessertenne finished in third place after a fine performance resulting in the second podium place in his Grand Prix career.

The series now leaves the Middle East and heads back to Europe for the second round, the Grand Prix of Portugal held in the city of Portimao on the last weekend of May.

The opening round of 2006 saw the birth of a new star with the 26 year-old Ivan Brigada heading home knowing he is now a legitimate runner for the world title and the first a serious grand prix contender for several years.