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EXCLUSIVE: The 2013 season of the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship is headed into rough waters following the withdrawal of two top teams, Dubai’s Victory and Spirit of Qatar.

Victory, the most successful team in the sport’s history which is currently headed by Arif Al Zafeen, have informed Class 1 Promotion that they would not be participating this season as there is no firm calendar in place yet, with the exception of the first round in China on March 28-30.

A further five rounds have been planned for this year – one each in Africa, the Mediterranean and Italy, and two in the UAE.

Interestingly, while the Mediterranean and Italy rounds have been scheduled for September 13-15 and September 27-29 respectively, no venues for these rounds have been announced. Similarly, no dates or venues for the two UAE rounds have been mentioned either.

According to Class 1 rules, a confirmed, if not a provisional, calendar must be announced at least one year in advance and no later than November of an ongoing championship season.

Speaking to Sport360°, Deputy Executive Director of Victory Team Nadir bin Hendi said: “Yes, it is true we have informed the promoter of our concerns regarding the calendar.

“We continue to be in talks with representatives of the promoters and as things stand we are unable to participate in the championship this year.

“We are a Government of Dubai funded entity plus we have our sponsors, but in the absence of a confirmed calendar we are unable to place a plan before both the government and our sponsors,” Bin Hendi added.

Bin Hendi, who is a former throttleman with Victory Team, pointed out that they are a multi-sport company and given the current situation in Class 1, Victory would like to concentrate on its other ventures, particularly jet ski, XCAT and rally racing.

Victory has a big presence in the UIM jet ski and World XCAT series through Fazza and Skydive Dubai respectively. Similarly, they are also involved with the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and circuit racing in the Formula Gulf 1000 championship.

Bin Hendi, however, said they are still open to participating in Class 1 but insisted that it all depends on the promoter providing a confirmed calendar. Victory has also made it clear that they will continue to be associated with Class 1 and have offered their services to the promoter.

Meanwhile, Spirit of Qatar, led by Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani, will compete in the Super Boat International (SBI) Championship in the United States this season and forego the Class 1 championship.

In fact, the Qatari team had stayed away from Class 1 for a couple of years from 2009-10 over what they then claimed in protest against the way the championship was being conducted.

However, Sheikh Hassan returned to Class 1 in 2011 claiming he was happy with the new management and promoter, but has now pulled out of the 2013 season as he is apparently “tired of the rules of Class 1 not being adhered to by certain teams”.

The Spirit of Qatar was unhappy after the 2012 Dubai Grand Prix race course was shortened, but Nicolo di San Germano, president of H2O racing and chairman of Class 1 Promotion, the promoters of the championship, had backed the officials’ decision on grounds the changes had been done keeping safety in mind.

The officials who took the decision were Race Director Gordon Sutherland, UIM Commissioner Marcello Zanardi and local Officer of the Day Ali Bin Gulaita. And, while negotiations continue to break the deadlock, Class 1 Promotion’s San Germano told Sport360° that preparations for the first round in Sanya, China, are well underway and that all the boats would be shipped to China on February 20.

San Germano is confident eight to 10 teams at the least would be seen in action but did not elaborate, and it remains to be seen which teams would actually make it to the start line.

With both Victory and Spirit of Qatar out of contention it means at least four less boats, which effectively would reduce the field to four-five teams. UIM, the world governing body for watersports, is yet to respond to an email from Sport360° seeking its position on the current crisis that Class 1 is facing.


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