Only ten days have left until the second race of the Class One World Powerboat Championship. From 20 to 22 July eleven boats will compete in Arendal, Norway, for the precious points.
The Victory and Qatar Teams can expect to feel the full force of a major ‘backlash’ from the European teams at the Norwegian Grand Prix in Arendal, round 2 of the WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship, after grabbing the top four spots in the opening race of the season in Athens, with only two European outfits, Spirit of Norway 10 and SeveneleveN, making the top six and four failing to go the distance.
Victory’s impressive one-two in the season-opener, with Victory 77’s newcomer, Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean Marc Sanchez leading home team-mates Ahmed Al Suwaidi and Nadir Bin Hendi, was the perfect start to their season, but with it now comes the added pressure of maintaining winning levels of performance. But the team head to Arendal knowing that it is a venue where they have an outstanding record, with five wins from nine starts.
The European challenge is spearheaded by Spirit of Norway, winner in Arendal in 2001, who salvaged seven valuable points last time out, despite having to make a pit-stop mid race. Team owner and driver, Bjorn Rune Gjelsten, has confirmed that they have carried out a lot of work on their boat after the problems in Athens – overhauling the electrics, the engine management system and carrying out work on the engines. A win in Arendal is what Spirit of Norway desperately need - but not at any price, commented Gjelsten.
SeveneleveN’s Nicola Giorgi and Tomaso Polli head to Arendal in an upbeat mood after carving out a well-earned top sixth finish in Athens and, with a more powerful engine package, are confident they can produce another solid performance – albeit on a course that Nicola says won’t suit their boat - and add to their points tally.
Christian Zaborowski and Jorn Tandberg have put the disappointment of Athens – where they started from Pole Position but retired on lap 6 – behind them and will be looking to repeat last year’s performance in Arendal, where they took their maiden Grand Prix win in their Mercury Class 1, V8-powered Jotun. Also looking to turn around their fortunes in Arendal are Negotiator, Foresti&Suardi and Spirit of Norway 20 – which has undergone a major refit - all looking to find reliability and to kick-start their season and make up for lost ground, with Italians, Ceschin and Ceriali looking to make their season debut in Overwave along with Class 1 newcomers, Marco Pennesi and Kurt Olsen in Veneta Marina.
Crucial to all the teams’ expectations and the outcome of the Norwegian Grand Prix will be the first running of the new format Edox Pole Position, given even greater significance in Arendal due to the two-row start formation because of the narrow course, and putting even greater emphasis on the teams to find the optimum performance right from the start. Qualifying will be split into two sessions: the first of 40 minutes, with all teams out on the water and given three laps to set a time that will put them in the top six and take them into the second session - a 25 minute shoot-out to determine who will line up in pole position and on the front row, with the teams who set times outside the top six lining up in positions 7 to 12 on the second row – a distinct disadvantage.
The Norwegian Grand Prix is run on a fast, very narrow and demanding course - with little, if any, margin for error - of 95.72Nm, over 12 laps, including two mandatory long laps – the general consensus of opinion amongst the teams is, get to the first corner out front and you dictate the race!
Championship Points/Positions – after round 1 of 8
1. Victory 77 – Al Zafeen(UAE)/Sanchez (FR) – 20pts
2. Victory 7 – Al Suwaidi (UAE)/Hendi (UAE) – 15pts
3. Qatar 96 – Al-Thani (QAT)/Nicolini (ITA) – 12pts
4. Qatar 95 – Al-Sulaiti (QAT)/L Nicolini (ITA) – 9pts
5. Spirit of Norway 10 – Gjelsten (NOR)/Curtis (GB) – 7pts
6. SeveneleveN 18 – Polli (ITA)/Giorgi (ITA) – 5pts
Foresti & Suardi 8 – Cirilli (ESP)/ Montavoci (ITA)
Spirit of Norway 20 – Barry-Cotter (AUS)/Nilsen (NOR)
Jotun 90 – Zaborowski (NOR)/Tandberg (NOR)
Negotiator 50 – Eker (NOR)/Parsonage (GB)
Overwave 11 – Ceriali (ITA)/Ceschin (ITA)