Driver Line-Ups Will Still Surprise Many At Doha!
ABU DHABI, UAE – 10th of March, 2008 – Questions, questions and more questions. There seems to be an unusual air of excitement and uncertainty on how the full driver line-up will unfold just 3 weeks away from the opening race of the 2008 campaign of the U.I.M. F1 World Championship for power boating.
On the eve of what some veteran observers are stating could be the most competitive season in the history of the U.I.M. F1 World Championship, eleven teams will feature the worlds best drivers as they open up the 2008 campaign on the edge of the Arabian Gulf along the cornice in downtown dazzling Doha, Qatar on the 28th and 29th of March.
This year’s race will be the 5th Annual Grand Prix of Qatar which joined the calendar back in 2005. This year will mark the 2nd time that this event has been the opening act of a season and at the meantime should place all the driver’s skills into effect around this challenging 5-turn 1.92 kilometer race circuit that is exposed to the open Gulf. It will become a handful for the competitors if the winds blow from the Northeast on race weekend.
Question marks still remain for some teams when it comes to 2nd or even 3rd drivers on a squad. In Sweden Jonas Andersson may have solved his formula for his 3rd driver on the F1 Team Sweden organization as a newcomer to the series is rumored to be signing on for the seat.
On the Rainbow Racing effort former World Champion Fabrizio Bocca is contemplating retirement and becoming team manager and turning the reigns over to another would-be driver after 144 career starts while welcoming back Italian Valerio Lagiannella.
Another Italian Fabio Comparato is in the middle of locking down his other driver for the 800 Doctor Racing Team before the 2008 campaign begins. This same seat was used so well by talented Swedish driver Pierre Lundin who finished 4th in the championship a year ago.
So, yes, there are still questions to be answered before the first lights go out on the opening lap of the 2008 season. Meanwhile, defending World Champion Sami Selio will lead the large field onto a race circuit that he has never won. In his four attempts, even though he has finished every event, Sami’s best placing was a 3rd place at the opening race in 2005. The Red Devil sponsored driver will be hoping to pick up where he left at the end of 2007 as he carries a two race win streak into Doha.
Selio’s new teammate Massimo Roggiero of Italy brings the Woodstock Racing Team a much needed boost as boat builder of the BABA hull that carried Selio to his world title last year. Massimo has raced just once in Doha scoring a 6th place in 2005.
The Trask brothers, both Bob and David, have each finished a best 5th place in Doha while the younger David from the Gold Coast of Australia crashed out in the last event her back in November while fighting for a top 5 in the championship.
The defending Team Champion Emirates squad is contemplating changing its identity to the Abu Dhabi Team, with the drivers who have been racing out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club for many years, now for the first full season since 2000 will be without their 4-time World Champion Scott Gillman for a full season.
Gillman, who officially becomes team manager, will continue to work with his trio of drivers in Thani Al Qamzi, Ahmad Al Hameli and Majed Al Mansoori. The “Turbo Twins” of Al Hameli and Al Mansoori who were together in the Emirates final two events in 2007, likely won’t be together starting the season with the team dedicated in pushing Thani towards a world title and boosting more out of last years “Rookie of the Year” driver in Al Hameli.
French driver Philippe Dessertenne has had good results in Doha with two straight podiums in 2005 and 2006 but failed to show the same results in the two races in 2007 when he had a 10th and a failure to finish for the CTIC China Charente Maritime. His teammate Peng Lin Wu has finished once with a 12th place in Doha.
The home standing Qatar Team will be led by veteran Jay Price who will be a legitimate contender for the World Championship after finishing 5th in the title in 2007. The New Orleans, Louisiana driver who qualified 4th and 5th last year and got a 5th at the last race in Doha last year, will have a pair of young rookie drivers from Qatar who will join him in 2008 on the team. Yousif Al Khulifi and Ahmed Al Fayyad arrive via racing F2 during the winter months after both coming from the ever popular Jet-Ski personal watercraft racing tour in the Middle East.
Jonas Andersson of Sweden a past F2 World Champion starts his 3rd year on the tour with a new and still unidentified teammate and a 3rd driver who is also a talented ex-F2 driver in French driver in Philippe Tourre. Both Jonas and Philippe are ready to put together stronger more consistent seasons this year.
Portugal’s Duarte Benavente along with teammate Philippe Chiappe will lead the Atlantic Team in hopes of more podium performances in 2008. Chiappe has 3 top 10 performances in four starts in Doha while Benavente has two.
Francesco Cantando, an 11 time race winner on the tour, has just 1 finish in Doha in four starts with a 6th last year after starting 16th. His teammate Marco Gambi has two starts and a best 10th in 2005.
Nine time World Champion Guido Cappellini of Como, Italy will lead his Tamoil sponsored effort as he starts his 150th career start and chasing his 57th overall victory. Two of those wins have come in Doha, winning the first race back in 2005 and winning the last race here in November of a year ago from pole. His new teammate Russian Stanislav Kourtsenovsky has qualified well with a 5th and a 7th starting position but has only one start and a failure to finish in 16th place a year ago.
All in all, drivers from over four different continents and 14 countries will take on the season’s most challenging race course on the rough semi-open ocean course in downtown Doha. It set’s the tone for what should be a most exciting and thrilling 2008 campaign with close to 10 different drivers having a legitimate chance to win the U.I.M. F1 World Championship title. It all begins in earnest on the final weekend of the month of March on the 28th and 29th. Stay tuned and find out whom will lead the pack as the tour will then shift it’s attention to three straight races in Europe in the late spring and early summer.