C1 Sheikh Hassan announces new Qatar Team for 2008



For immediate release

Monday, February 4th, 2008






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DOHA (Qatar): His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani will team up with eight-times former World Champion Steve Curtis MBE in the 2008 WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship for the first time at the helm of Qatar 96. Doha-based team mate Abdullah Al-Sulaiti will race in Qatar 95 and is joined by Sheikh Hassan’s former Italian throttleman Matteo Nicolini, with whom he clinched the UIM Class 3 World Championship title in 2006.


The recent acquisition of the Spirit of Norway operation by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) means that both Qatar 95 and Qatar 96 start as two of the clear favourites to win the revised 2008 World Championship which roars into life on March 1st with the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha Bay.


Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini finished third overall in last year’s championship, but the recent retirement of Norwegian Bjorn Gjelsten meant that Curtis was available to join the Qatar Team. He and Gjelsten have been the dominant partnership in Class 1 racing in the last few seasons and Sheikh Hassan is thrilled that the 2007 WPPA Edox Pole Position champion has joined the Qatar Team.


“It will be a bit strange to start with having Steve as my team mate, because Matteo and I got used to each other and we do think alike and had as good a communication last year as we did when we first started,” said Sheikh Hassan. “I suppose it will be another learning year but, looking at previous races and seeing how Steve operates, I don’t think it will take long before we learn each other’s racing style. It will be more a case of me getting used to the new boat.”


Sheikh Hassan feels that the Qatar Team now has a potent mix of talent and experience for the 2008 season. “Both Steve and Matteo are boat builders and have different styles in developing their own competitive boats. Now the Qatar Team can benefit from a huge databank from both throttlemen, in terms of boat improvements and development. I will be able to benefit personally from adding Steve’s knowledge to what I have already learned from Matteo.”


Hampshire-based Curtis was one of the Qatar Team’s arch rivals last season, but Sheikh Hassan is confident that the new partnership could swing the World Championship in Qatar’s favour. “Our aim is to win the championship for Qatar and keep it for some time. We will need to be open and trust each other as we will not be competing against each other any more.


“Now we have the best equipment, the best throttlemen in the sport and a good development plan for the team, it will be a case of keeping our concentration. This could be the year for the Qatar Team…”


Curtis is the most successful racer in the history of Class 1 racing and feels that he and Sheikh Hassan could well be a winning combination from the outset. “I have seen Hassan racing for several years. He has good racing lines and is a very good driver. I think the most difficult part will be Hassan adjusting to working with me and the new team, because I have the advantage of knowing the boat inside out and it will be totally new to him.


“We need to work on reliability this season, because it cost us (Spirit of Norway) dearly last year. We will start the season with the set-up that Bjorn and I used in Dubai last December. It is not the fastest boat in the championship, but it is very good in rough water. I don’t think we ever lost a rough weather race together. The important thing will be for Hassan and I to settle quickly and get a couple of podiums under our belts. I love winning races and I am sure it will not be too long before we are on top of the podium together.”


Nicolini is relishing the prospect of his switch to Qatar 95 and his personal quest for the world title. “There is no secret to Class 1 racing,” said the Italian. “The only way to win the championship is to work hard and be focused for all the season. This year the team will be much stronger.


“Abdullah and I won Qatar’s first and only world title together in 2006 in Class 3 so we are very strong. I am looking forward to racing with him in Class 1. It’s nice having Steve in the team. We hope he will give us back what he took away in Doha in 2005 – the World Championship! With Steve and all the Norwegian technicians in our team it is like having two strong teams rolled into one. I think this was Sheikh Hassan’s vision when he decided to have them with us.”


Nicolini is fully aware that his former team mate may well become his greatest racing adversary this year. “For me the main competition is clear this year. It will be my good friend and partner for the last four seasons. The person with whom I shared two spectacular crashes and many podium finishes – Sheikh Hassan!”


The State of Qatar will host the opening round of the series on March 1st and the WPPA announced in Germany recently that there will be a new race in Budva, Montenegro, with provisional new dates in the diary for Grand Prix in Spain, Ukraine and Bahrain.


The status quo is maintained by a regular summer visit to Arendal in Norway, a pair of races at the end of the year in the UAE, one in Romania and a second visit in two years to Egypt, the venue of which moves from the northern Mediterranean coast to the Red Sea resort of Porto Sokhna in October.


2008 WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship calendar

QATAR, Doha                                               March 1

MONTENEGRO, Budva                               May 25

SPAIN, Andalucia (reserve date)                June 15 or 22

NORWAY, Arendal                                       July 20

UKRAINE, Yalta (reserve date)                   August 17

ROMANIA, Constanta-Mamaia                   August 31

EGYPT, Porto Sokhna                                 October 18

BAHRAIN (reserve date)                              November 7

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Dubai            November 29

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Dubai            December 6




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: 04/02/2008

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