Tandberg hoping to achieve local victory against tough UAE competition

Jorn Tandberg, the defending European Class 1 offshore champion, will be hoping to break the Middle East dominance when he lines up to defend his title in next weekend’s BMW Norwegian Grand Prix in Arendal on July 17-19. Here 40 points will be up for grabs as the World Professional Powerboat Association (WPPA) introduces a two-race Grand Prix format for the first time.

Tandberg, a two-times winner in 2008, will line up in a Mercury V8-powered Welmax hull (pictured) alongside fellow Norwegian, Kolbjorn Selmer. He will be trying for a third win on home-waters in four years and hopefully kick-start his season after a broken driveshaft ended his race in Qatar.

But, as the on-water battle for supremacy between V8 and V12 power-plants intensifies, the overwhelming threat to a second consecutive win for Tandberg in Arendal lies with the in-formVictoryandSpirit of Qatarcamps.

Fazza’s Arif Al Zafeen, who won in Arendal in 2007, and Nadir Bin Hendi who struck the first blow in the 2009 title race in Qatar, are currently enjoying an unprecedented trouble-free run in a race boat that has not missed a beat in over two seasons. It looks the team to beat.

But team-mate,Victory 1throttleman Jean-Marc Sanchez, also a winner in Arendal, will have other ideas and, with rookie Mohammad Al Mehairi, will be looking to break his long run of podium finishes – nine from ten starts – this time with overall success.

TheSpirit of Qatarcrews will also have their eyes on the main prize in Arendal, but on each other as well, as their in-house fight for supremacy – again V8 over V12 power units – and bragging rights intensifies.Qatar 95’sMatteo Nicolini and Abdullah Al-Sulaiti grabbed their maiden Edox Pole Position win last time out, but saw a win vanish after stopping mid-race while their team-mates filled second both. Both outfits have modified their boats and tested recently; Nicolini is confident the gremlins have been fixed, and Steve Curtis believes that he and Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani will be very quick in Arendal, but admits they will have to push hard and up their game, as they look for their first win together inQatar 96since teaming up in 2008.

With one or two driver line-ups changing and to be finalised, the tussle amongst the middle-order is hard to gauge; Giorgioffshore’s Nicola Giorgi has enjoyed a run of good results in recent outings, a podium at the end of 2008 and a fifth in Qatar, and looks set to continue his partnership with rookie driver, Riccardo Calugi. Giampaolo Montavoci will be joined inForesti & Suardi – Roscioli Hotelsby fellow Italian, Giampiero Soave, making just his second start in Class 1 – he made his debut with Montavoci in the Portuguese Grand Prix in Lisbon in 2004, whilst Domenico Cirilli’s pairing of Abdelkader and Carpitella inC.A.Mis still be confirmed.

Maritimo Australia has been busy working frantically on both their charges to fix the handling and technical issues that blighted their return to Class 1 at the season-opener and limited their time on the water. Both crews will be desperate to produce a solid points’ finish;Maritimo 12’sthrottleman, Peter McGrath, is optimistic that the modifications have got them 80% of the way to where they should be and now it’s just a case of more time in the boat with his new driver, Giorgio Manuzzi. Whilst Tom Barry-Cotter will be hoping that the success he has enjoyed racing in Australia – successfully defending his Australian Offshore Superboat title – will start to carry over into Class 1 for him and Pal Virik Nilsen inMaritimo 11.

The Arendal course, run inside the narrow fjords, is one of the most spectacular, challenging and demanding on the Class 1 circuit, and for all the pilots and technicians. The twelfth Grand Prix to be run in Arendal presents a new challenge, as Class 1 introduces a restructured race-weekend and two-race Grand Prix format for the first time – where success or failure in race one will impact hugely on the outcome in race two.

The new format, warmly welcomed by the teams and all of Class 1’s Grand Prix Organisers, will see first official practice taking place on Friday afternoon, with an extended one-and-a-half hour session on Saturday morning for official practice and qualifying in the Edox Pole Position, with no limit to the number of timed laps, followed by the first race in the afternoon, 50.85N made up of nine laps including one long lap.

A third official practice session on Sunday morning will be followed by the second race in the afternoon – with the starting line-up determined by the results of the first race – 68.21Nm, run over 12 laps, including two long laps – with both races counting for full championship points.