Class I revs up for enthralling season

Class 1 looks set for one of its strongest seasons yet.

Class 1 looks set for one of its strongest seasons yet. It now has a competitive fleet including several new teams and three new venues. The series opens at Athens (Greece) moves to Constanta (Romania) and then to El Alamein (Egypt). It also sees the fleet returning to the Norweigian venues of Oslo and Arendal . Doha (Qatar) and Dubai (UAE) finally make up an impressive calendar. There is also a raft of new marketing initiatives adding to the mix for what promises to be a year to enthral and captivate.

Eleven boats will line up for the season-opener in Palaio Faliro-Athens, Greece on Sunday, 10 June; five are proven race-winners, seven have won a pole position and eight have also grabbed podium finishes. New technical rulings and format to the EDOX Pole Position, have been designed to make racing and competition much closer. The outcome of the Greek Grand Prix, let alone the 2007 title race, is therefore impossible to predict.

If a favourite or winner is hard to pick, the team to beat is not. Spirit of Norway has over the last five seasons made the title its own, but its crew know they will face a fierce onslaught from their rivals, all of whom are desperate to end their reign. Gjelsten and Curtis, who, with 30 wins from 74 starts, seem happy with their set-up, hint at having made one or two ‘adjustments’ but stay with their trusty V12 engine package, and both will look at the list of new pairings with great interest.

Victory 77, that pushed Spirit to the brink for the last two years, starts with newcomer Arif Saif Al Zafeen taking over the wheel from Mohammed Al Marri to team up with Jean-Marc Sanchez. Qatar 95, that grabbed its first win and finished third in the title race last season also sees a switch, with Luca Nicolini taking over as throttleman to join Al-Sulaiti. And whilst Spirit’s arch-rivals aboard Qatar 96 maintain their line-up of Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini, they have switched from the V8 back to the SKEMA V12.

Jotun, which also grabbed its first win in 2006 and enjoyed its best season to date finishing fourth, maintain the all-Norwegian pairing of Tandberg and Zaborowski, but switch back to the MTI and stay with the Mercury Class 1 V8. Chris Parsonage takes on his fourth partner in as many seasons, with the 2005 Class 1 World Champion, Bard Eker, stepping into the drivers’ seat aboard Negotiator with Parsonage opting to run Sterling V8s.

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Montavoci and Cirilli, another team that did well last season taking their first Pole Position win and two podiums, remain unchanged in Foresti&Suardi, as does Victory 7, with Nadir Bin Hendi and Ahmed Al-Suwaidi lining up for their second season together; Nicola Giorgi is still to name his driver in SeveneleveN, but confirms he will start the season in the Cougar.

Two new teams entered this year sees an all-Italian line-up with Maurizio Ceschin returning to racing alongside Class 1 debutant, Enrico Ceriale in Overwave and 19 year-old Tom Barry-Cotter becoming the youngest competitor in Class 1 for over a decade, teaming up with Norwegian Pal Virik Nilsen in Spirit of Norway 20 to form this season’s youngest partnership.


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