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Looking ahead to Egypt
Posted On: 22 Oct 2007 - 12:37
Courtesy of The Class 1 fleet returns to competitive action this weekend, 25-27 October, and will line up on the aquamarine waters of the Mediterranean, as Porto Marina, one of the most fashionable resorts in the Middle East, hosts the Egyptian Grand Prix, round five of the WPPA Class 1 World Powerboat Championship and the first round of the WPPA Class 1 Middle East Championship.

The Egyptian Grand Prix is the start of an intensive period of racing for the teams, with four races in the Middle East in six weeks. And with 80 points on offer (excluding bonus points), the world title is still very much up for grabs, but the chasing pack must start taking points away from the championship leaders if they are to stay in the title race, and they must start doing it in Porto Marina.

The first half of the season has been dominated by the Middle East teams, who have kept their European rivals off the podium at all but one race, with Victory 77's Arif Saif Al Zafeen and Jean-Marc Sanchez blazing a trail of supremacy and consistency, taking three wins out of four and a second place to clinch the European Championship and give themselves a healthy - but not unassailable - 19 point lead in the overall title race. If they can maintain their imperious form, the title is enticingly within sight. Whilst teammates, Talib Al Sayed and Nadir Bin Hendi in Victory 7, are currently lying in fourth place, and in a strong position to play a key supporting role if Victory are to regain the world crown.

Sheikh Hassan Bin Jabor Al-Thani and Matteo Nicolini in Qatar 96, with four podium finishes so far lead the chase, and is the only outfit who can grab the title without relying on Victory 77 to break or falter, assuming that is, that they win the next four races - a Herculean task. But Sheikh Hassan and Nicolini have the reliability and if they can find some extra pace, can pile pressure on the leaders. For Bjorn Gjelsten and Steve Curtis, the defending World Champions, the title appears to be slipping from their grasp. A frustrating season so far, and with technical hitches restricting them to just one win, sees them 30 points off the lead. But Spirit of Norway has proved to be the fastest boat out there, but will have to hope the leaders break or drop considerable points and that they return to winning ways, if they are to successfully defend their title.

Abdullah Al-Sulaiti and Luca Nicolini, Qatar 95, are the pick of the teams running V8 power-plants, and after a season of ongoing development with the Mercury and a podium last time out, appear to have hit form at a crucial time and look likely to be podium challengers from here on in. Spirit of Norway's youngsters, Tom Barry-Cotter and Pal Nilsen, also with the Mercury, will be looking to build on a solid first season together and try to find some extra pace to move them into a top six ranking. For Bard Eker and Chris Parsonage in Negotiator, bedding in Sterling V8s and Jotun's Christian Zaborowski and Jorn Tandberg, running the Mercury, a lack of reliability and some misfortune has dogged their seasons. But both teams can start to turn their fortunes around by realising their obvious pace and potential and produce strong showings in Porto Marina with a focus on grabbing some silverware in the Middle East Championship.

SeveneleveN will be hoping to start the second half of the season, as they started the season, with a top six finish in Porto Marina, but with Tomaso Polli unavailable to race, Nicola Giorgi will be joined in the cockpit by Class 1 newcomer and fellow Italian, Giorgio Manuzzi.

Veneta Marina-Duemme Brokers's season has been dominated by driver changes, but Giampaolo Montavoci and Marco Pennesi, Foresti & Suardi, will be looking to improve on the solid performances that sees them lying in a very credible sixth place, with confirmation that Kolbjorn Selmer, who made his Class 1 debut in Mamaia will now be partnered by the experienced, Mauro Esperto, in boat number 2, carrying the colours of new sponsor Fainplast (formerly VM Foresti & Suardi).

The race weekend starts with the first official practice on Thursday, 25 followed by a second practice session and the EDOX Pole Position on Friday 26, with a final practice session and the teams lining up for the 21 lap, 97.36Nm Egyptian Grand Prix in Porto Marina on Saturday, 27 October.

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