VICTORY TEAM DUBAI
By Andre Gonzaga
There was a huge sigh of relief spread across Gianfranco Venturelli’s
face after the opening round of the WPPA Class One World Powerboat Championship
last month. Five years has been a long time for the Italian as he has done
everything in his capacity to turn around the fortunes of the Victory Team.
After going without a title for so long, Venturelli cannot hide his impatience.
His team has been the world champions, but the last time was half a decade ago.
He has tasted the sweet taste of success, which somehow has been eluding the men
in blue. Patience is thin and is surely running out for the Dubai-based team,
considering the extensive pre-season training undertaken by the team in getting
them ready for the battle ahead.
All this hard work and meticulous planning did not go in vain as the two Victory
Team boats – Victory 77 and Victory 7 - swept away honours in the opening round
of the World Professional Powerboat Association (WPPA) Class One World Powerboat
Championship held in Greece in the first half of June. The Victory Team hunger
was on display in picturesque Athens as the less fancied combination of Jean
Marc Sanchez and Aref Al Zafeen in Victory 77 sidestepped Victory 7’s duo of
Ahmad Al Suwaidi and Nader Bin Hindi.
It was a momentous occasion for debutante Al Zafeen, but at the end of the race,
Venturelli had the broadest grin of them all. “We have been waiting for this to
happen for quite some time now. It has been a long time since we had a one-two
finish for Victory,” Venturelli admitted.
The Italian has always believed that the Dubai team has all the ingredients in
turning the corner and setting a realistic goal of annexing the world title once
again this year. “The Greek Grand Prix is just the beginning, and the start has
been good for us. I only hope we can carry forward this success through the
remainder of the season. I want the two Victory Team boats to be confident so
that they can make winning a habit,” Venturelli stated.
But the Italian also knows how much of hard work has gone into making this
success possible for the team that has picked up six world crowns since their
inception on the global stage in 1992. And the sudden streak of missing out on
the ultimate honours during the past five years has led the team into self doubt
and a low din of criticism to go along with it.
However, the outfit has believed in their ability to win and portray Dubai on
the world stage – because that is what the initial idea of setting up a
powerboat team was all about.
During the past two seasons, Victory Team boats have had close calls on the
title – the closest was last year when Spirit of Norway clipped them by a mere
two points. “It has been a close call in the past two years and hopefully, we
have done enough to close down this gap this year and set a realistic goal,”
The Italian has a wealth of experience when it comes to handling an outfit like
the Victory Team. He has spent more than 35 years in the automotive and marine
industry, his previous assignments being with Ferrari and Lamborghini back home.
Under his guidance, the Victory Team has taken three UIM Class One and three UIM
Class Two World Offshore Championship titles. In this time, he has also overseen
the team’s successful development with the emergence of the Victory Team
commercial division, a step that sees the outfit not only build and sell
state-of-the-art boats, but also focus on high-tech marine activities.
This sort of experience has rubbed off on the team as they strive towards a new
era of professionalism in the team at all levels. “The fruit of the winter
testing will be seen as the season progresses. But what is even more important
is that we get maximum reliability in our set-up and strive for professionalism
at all levels,” Venturelli remarked.
The aspect of professionalism is crucial, given the fact that there are suddenly
a cluster of boats that are capable of being serious challengers to the title.
“Suddenly every one is showing a hunger that was previously missing. The
difference between boats and teams is getting narrow, and we realize that we
ought to be more professional in our approach,” he said.
“Now that we have won the first round, our boats are under the scanner. The
entire world will be watching us to see how we are going to carry forward this
success. We are a world-class team and we need to carry this forward and bring
home a magical seventh title,” Venturelli asserted.
History of Victory Team
Several years ago, the Government of Dubai identified sports as a key way of
spreading the name of the emirate as a business and tourist destination to an
international audience. That was the start of a top international set-up that
went on to dominate the sport over the years.
In 1986, the first boat with the words ‘Victory Team’ emblazoned on its hull
made its appearance on the scene initially competing in events throughout the
Middle East and the USA.
In 1992, it made its debut in the arena of Class One where they stormed into an
unprecedented first time and second as guest entries during the final two rounds
of the UIM Class One World Championship.
A year later, competing as an official entry at the top level of the sport,
Victory Team went on to win the 1993 UIM Class One World Offshore Championship
as well as the Pole Position title in their first season, an astonishing feat by
Today, Victory Team is acknowledged as the greatest success story to emerge in
the history of offshore racing.
“We have a responsibility to defend when we step out there in any part of the
world,” Venturelli said.
“We are a team representing Dubai and the entire world is watching to see what
Dubai is up to. The Victory team has been a true ambassador for the sport and
for Dubai and the UAE,” he added.
In terms of development too, the team stands apart and all Victory Team boats
are built and rigged entirely in their Dubai facility. The team have also
developed and built its own ‘Victory V12’ engines derived from Lamborghini, but
built and developed by the team in Dubai. From Cuba to Kuwait, New Zealand to
Norway, while on the road, the sight of Victory Team rolling into town is an
Down the years and with six world titles under their belt starting with the
first one in 1993, the Victory Team has always endeavoured to move towards
professionalism taking the sport to a different level. In keeping with this
approach, Khalfan Hareb – one of the most successful drivers in the set-up – is
the Managing Director of the team since its inception in 1990.
“Once again, it is time we take up the challenge that lies ahead this season.
For this, we are armed with a steadfast commitment to sporting excellence, a
dedication to professionalism and an unwavering determination to bring pride to
our country by adorning the halls of our headquarters with the world trophy,”
remarked Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Victory Team as the team
readied itself for the 2007 season.
“The Victory Team is associated with Dubai and this means that we have
accomplished what we were entrusted with,” stated Saeed Hareb, Managing Director
of the Dubai International Marine Club and President of the newly-formed World
Professional Powerboat Association (WPPA).
Victory Team driver profiles
Ahmad Al Suwaidi - Driver: Victory 7
Date of Birth: October 5, 1971
Place of Birth: Dubai, UAE
Victory 7 driver Ahmad Al Suwaidi has all the experience needed to develop into
a successful driver for the team. He teamed up with Nader Bin Hindi for the
first time last season and came up with relative success as they took the second
spot behind teammates Aref Al Zafeen and Jean Marc Sanchez at the end of the
Greek Grand Prix in June. Last year was a learning experience for the pair as
they took one third place to finish seventh in the overall standings at the end
of the season.
Nader Bin Hindi -
Throttleman: Victory 7
Date of Birth: December 15, 1969
Place of Birth: Dubai, UAE
Formerly one of the best jet-ski drivers in the region, Nader Bin Hindi, like
his teammate Ahmad Al Suwaidi started Class One racing from 2005. He has been a
keen student and used 2006 as a learning curve to sharpen his skills with the
boat. The Dubai-born Nader started off as a driver, but then switched over to
being the throttleman for Victory 7. One of his career highs came when Victory 7
went on to clinch third place at the British Grand Prix in Plymouth.
As a jet-ski driver, Bin Hindi has always excelled. So success is not something
that is new to him. He has a love for visiting the podium as a jet-ski driver,
and he hopes to carry this affinity to the podium during his Class One career
Aref Saif Al Zafeen -
Driver: Victory 77
Date of Birth: September 1, 1974
Place of Birth: Dubai
Aref Al Zafeen is the latest addition on the Victory Team combination. Going
into his first season, Al Zafeen will take over as the driver in Victory 77 with
Frenchman Jean Marc Sanchez as his throttleman.
In an attempt to further his powerboating career, Al Zafeen has been sponsored
by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime
Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai at the Formula One World Powerboat
Al Zafeen made his competitive debut almost 15 years ago in wooden powerboats,
and he comes into Class One racing with an impressive track record picking up
the Formula 2000 Championships for getting all his accolades and experience.
Jean Marc Sanchez - Throttleman: Victory 77
Date of Birth: March 27, 1961
Place of Birth: St. Tropez, France
Jean Marc Sanchez has seen it all during a chequered and demanding career in
Class One. The Frenchman made a comeback in 2004 after a 12-year self-inflicted
sabbatical from the Class One fold.
Stepping up from Victory Team crew chief duties in 2004 to replace Saeed Humaid
Al Tayer in Victory 77, Sanchez proved to be the perfect throttleman to partner
2001 world champion driver Mohammad Al Marri – the last time the men in blue
delivered a world title.
Last year, Sanchez partnered Al Marri to land second place in the world
championship – separated by a mere two points from world champion Spirit of
The Frenchman made his Class One debut in 1986 racing with French team Leader
before going on to join forces with Italian team Rainbow in 1989. In 1991,
Sanchez transferred to Achilles Motors until he joined Victory Team in 1992.
Mohammad Al Marri - Driver Co-ordinator
Date of Birth: February 2, 1962
Place of Birth: Dubai, UAE
Mohammad Al Marri will be the reserve driver and the driver co-ordinator for the
new season. This is a new appointment and it has been made to ensure that the
young breed of drivers benefit from having an experienced hand to guide them.
He made his Class One debut in 1999, swiftly establishing himself as one of the
team’s most successful sporting stars. He clinched his first UIM Class One World
Championship title alongside Saeed Humaid Al Tayer in 2001.
He knows he has the experience to back him on this aspect. In 2005, Al Marri
took Victory Team to the 2005 Middle East Championship title along with a second
place in the World Championship standings, a feat that he repeated last season