Monday, August 10, 2009

Class 1 Powerboat Field Leaking Teams as Qatar Pulls Out; Maritimo Could be Next

With 7 teams and 10 boats competing, the prestigious Class 1 Powerboat Championship can ill afford to lose one or more of it's premier 2-boat teams, but it looks like that may well happen in a major dispute over unsportsmanlike conduct charges against the series-leading Victory Team. Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF) president Sheikh Hassan has informed a press conference that both Qatar teams have withdrawn from the UIM Class 1 championships immediately. Noting that the decision was "in the best interests of the QMSF," he went on to explain that his decision stemmed from an incident which took place at the start of last month’s Norwegian Grand Prix in Arundal.

PHOTO CREDIT: Class 1 Powerboat - Simon Palfredar.

Citing ‘misconduct and bad sportsmanship’ as behind the decision, Team Qatar members had been unhappy with actions taken by the Victory 1 team, who eventually won the GP; regarding the misconduct, the Sheikh said that officials were too slow in responding to the incident. The Qatar teams, which feature throttleman Steve Curtis in the Qatar 96 boat, along with Abdullah Al Sulaiti and Matteo Nicolini in the Qatar 95 boat are withdrawing with four races left on the Class 1 schedule.

At the same time, there is also a rumor that another team (possibly Norwegian) is also contemplating pulling out of the championship. For his part, Australian Bill Barry-Cotter, owner of the two boat Maritimo team, has is supporting the actions of the of the Qatar team, adding that he also plans to withdraw his own team after the next round of racing in in Romania (Aug.28-30). "We’re making the decision to contest the Romanian round only as a last ditch attempt, in the hope that the Victory team and the organisers can sort this matter out," he said. "If they are unable to solve the problem, Maritimo will withdraw."

PHOTO CREDIT: Class 1 Powerboat - Simon Palfredar.

Tom Barry-Cotter, driver for the #11 boat of the Maritimo team, also supported the Qatar move, and says he is unhappy with the behavior of the Victory team as well. "Maritimo will contest the Romania GP later this month, but if the Victory team do not come to the table and make amends for recent behaviour we will withdraw from the championship."

In his comments, Sheikh Hassan said the Victory team, which is owned by the government of Dubai, had been consistent in breaking the rules and not respecting the instructions given during drivers’ briefings. At the same time, racers on other Class 1 teams have chimed in on the subject as well, describing the Victory team as "bad sports." Sheikh Hassan charged that the Victory team had been "messing with the starts" since 2006, and nothing has been done about it. At this point in the season, Victory 1 leads the current point score following its Arendal win; their other boat - Fazza #3 - is second, just five points behind, Foresti and Suardi holding third with Qatar #96 and Maritimo #11 tied for fourth. Perhaps as a protest, visitors to the QMSF web page are greeted with a blank, all-black page.

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