If you've been inclined to have a go at powerboat racing but were put off by the prohibitive costs, pay attention now. Starting this year, the UAE will host the UK-based Powerboat P1 SuperStock championship. It is being promoted by UK entrepreneur, Asif Rangoonwala, chairman of Powerboat P1 Management. The flamboyant businessman is often referred to as the marine version of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Born into a wealthy merchant family from Karachi, Rangoonwala runs Eurobuns, a baking concept that supplies buns to some of the world's most popular outlets. In an interview with the UK's The Independent not so long ago, Rangoonwala claimed the buns used at the cinemas and fast food outlets in the UK were probably from Eurobuns. Apart from being the top baking enterprise in the UK, Eurobuns was also among the top ten in Europe. Here are excerpts from a chat.
How different is the Powerboat P1 SuperStock championship from the UIM F1 powerboat world championship that's already popular in the region?
Both P1 SuperStock and F1 are world championship racing series, but SuperStock provides a logical progression from national level to continental and world championships. Powerboat P1 has created a career pathway, which is necessary for the sport to develop beyond only being an expensive hobby.
SuperStock is accessible in every way, especially in terms of cost in that it's cheaper to race and to sponsor than other classes. The P1 mono-hull boats can race in any conditions whilst the F1 craft need flatter water. The total F1 fleet numbers around 12, whereas SuperStock racing has a wider racing audience with 36 boats currently competing in national championships. The P1 SuperStock series in the UAE will not challenge the current classes, but instead it will integrate and link them so as to increase value and future viability for the entire industry.
Powerboat racing is a rich man's sport. How much will it cost a racing enthusiast to get involved with the sport?
Accessibility and affordability are the cornerstones of the P1 SuperStock championship. Figures from the first season of racing last year show that SuperStock racers can compete for as little as 10 per cent of a comparable motor racing series.
To give an idea of the costs involved, last year's UK SuperStock champion had full season running costs of under £20,000 (about Dh120,000) for a driver and navigator racing the new P1 Panther 28SS boat. A licence to compete in the SuperStock championship requires only five days of race training, which can be had for under £2,000.
Why did you choose the UAE for P1's international expansion?
Dubai's useful location has helped it to become an important trading and business hub and in recent years it has also hosted many world-class sporting events. The P1 vision for powerboat racing has been shared with a local investor who is funding the entry of the SuperStock series into the UAE.
Tell us a little bit about the Panther 28SS. Can it be used as a leisure boat?
Powerboat P1 has successfully developed a multi-functional boat for competition as well as introduction into the global commercial pleasure-boat market. The design incorporates a removable cowling to access rear seats for leisure use, thereby encouraging even greater participation at entry level.
You've been referred to as the Bernie Ecclestone of the marine world. Have you ever had a chance to chat with him about P1 Powerboat racing?
I have met Bernie Ecclestone on a number of occasions. On the first time, Mr Ecclestone said that he only had 20 minutes available for a discussion, but two hours later we were still talking about my vision for powerboat racing to join cars and bikes as a third pillar of motorsport.
The key dates for the UAE national series are as follows:
End of May/June: Race training and P1 training school
September/October: Further race training
Early November: Series launch
End of November: Opening round of the championship
End of February 2013: Final round of the series
Top Speed: 112km/h
Weight: 1,600kg (dry weight)
Tank: 260 litres