C1 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat season gets underway in Doha Bay

Qatar Grand Prix, round 1 – Saturday, April 29th, 2006

For immediate release
Thursday, April 27th, 2006


Qatar Team carries out positive pre-Grand Prix shakedown test;
10 teams, five revised crew line-ups and rule changes in place for 2006

DOHA (Qatar): After weeks of detailed preparation and planning, the 2006 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship descended upon Doha Bay, today (Thursday). Ten boats, including the four-man Qatar Team in Qatar 95 and Qatar 96, will face 10 demanding rounds of the championship, starting with a pair of races this Saturday (April 29th) and Thursday, May 4th, in Doha.

His Excellency Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani, the defending UIM Class 1 European Champion, kick-started his challenge for honours in this year’s series with several timed test laps in his Michael Peters-designed and Mercury HP 1075 SCi-powered Qatar 96 in warm and windy conditions in Doha Bay.

He will be bidding for a third Class 1 GP victory in three seasons, when the chequered flag is eventually raised on a new season’s GP racing on Saturday afternoon. But Sheikh Hassan was forced to carry out today’s acceleration and component tests without his experienced Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini - who has recently clinched the Gulf Class III Championship - and arrives in Doha from a race meeting in the UAE this evening.

“It was a little windy this afternoon, but this was not an issue for me,” said Sheikh Hassan. “Matteo has been racing Class III in Abu Dhabi and has already clinched that championship. I was out on the water with Lino (Di Biase) today for the first time. We were only testing propellers and other equipment. It was the first time that I have been out in the boat since the beginning of April.

“The main test work will be carried out with Matteo on Friday morning. For the Pole Position on Friday afternoon we will be working on gear selection, the weight of the boat and propeller settings. With the new regulations we have a new ECU unit on the engines and we are not really sure yet how they will perform in race conditions.”

The Dubai-based Victory 7 crew of Nadir Bin Hindi and Ahmed Al-Suwaidi were the first pairing on to the water for the free practice session, but their opening time of 3m 05.453s was soon superseded by a flying Spirit of Norway team with 2m 51.766s and a later session-winning time of 2m 51.234s. Class 1 debutant James Sheppard teamed up with Chris Parsonage in King of Shaves to take the third fastest time of the day with an encouraging 2m 58.688s.

Qatar 95 driver Abdullah Al-Sulaiti finished the 2005 season with a flourish and was classified second overall in last December’s Mina Seyahi Grand Prix in Dubai, when he stood in for the injured Sheikh Hassan alongside Matteo Nicolini.

He again teams up with Lino Di Biase this weekend and will carry out his main pre-race shakedown test on Friday morning, prior to the Pole Position competition. “I am looking forward to the new season immensely,” said Al-Sulaiti. “It was great to get back into the Class 1 boat again this morning and run a couple of laps with Lino.”

Al-Sulaiti and Di Biase set a best time of 2m 59.875s, but when Di Biase switched to Qatar 96 a few minutes later to partner Sheikh Hassan, the Italian shaved a further 0.28s off the Qatar Team’s best time of the session and the pair improved it still further near the end of the session with 2m 57.641s to take the second fastest time of the day.

Ten boats have registered for this year’s 10-round championship and the Qatar Grand Prix will mark the return of the Norwegian multiple champion Bjorn Gjelsten to the helm of Spirit of Norway, replacing Bard Eker who partnered Britain’s Steve Curtis to victory last season.

There will be five revised driver line-ups and a number of rule amendments, including a power cap on Mercury engines, a new compression ceiling for V12 units and a weight penalty of 350 kgs for teams preferring to run forged propellers instead of cast ones. Another interesting addition to the championship will be the need to complete two timed long laps during a Grand Prix and not one, as was the case in 2005.

Today’s timetable consisted of administration, registration, technical scrutineering and the first official practice sessions between 12.00 hrs and 14.15 hrs.

Tomorrow (Friday) marks the first official Pole Position competition of the new season, with the two Qatar Team boats set to line-up against their fiercest rivals Victory 77, Victory 77, Spirit of Norway and Jotun. The day begins with a first official practice session on the course between 09.00 hrs and 11.00 hrs, with the Pole Position shoot-off taking place between 15.00 hrs and 16.15 hrs.

Practice session best times (unofficial) – Thursday, April 27th
1. Spirit of Norway 10 (Gjelsten (N)/Curtis (GB)) 2m 51.234s
2. Qatar 96 (Al-Thani (QA)/Di Biase (I)) 2m 57.641s
3. King of Shaves 50 (Parsonage (GB)/Sheppard(GB)) 2m 58.688s
4. Qatar 95 (Al-Sulaiti (QA)/Di Biase (I)) 2m 59.875s
5. Foresti & Suardi 8 (Monavoci (I)/Cirilli (I)) 3m 03.344s
6. Victory 7 (Bin Hindi (UAE)/Al-Suwaidi (UAE)) 3m 05.453s
7. Jotun 90 (Tandberg (N)/Zaborowski (N)) 3m 08.594s
8. Seveneleven 9 (Giorgi (I)/Nilsen (N)) 3m 33.360s


For further information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, Mobile: + 44 7831 123153, E-mail: ndppublicity@compuserve.com. www.ndp-publicity.com (press releases).


Date issued: 27/04/2006

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