Tuesday, 30 May, PORTO CESAREO (Italy): 2017 looks all set to be yet another nail biting season for the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship, full of intense drama, thrills, spills and cutthroat competition, with the kind of sportsmanship and camaraderie that sets the UIM-ABP tour a part.
The season kicks-off with back-to-back Grand Prix in the stunning region of Puglia in Italy, with the Grand Prix of Italy on 2-4 June in Porto Cesareo and followed a week later by the Grand Prix of the Mediterranean in Vieste on 9-11 June.
This year marks the 23rd season for the Aquabike World Championship, the sport’s most prestigious international jet-ski series, and a spectacular weekend of racing is anticipated for the first act of 2017.
Over 100 riders from 26 countries will descend on Porto Cesareo, where the world’s elite riders competing on the UIM-ABP world tour in Runabout and Ski GP1 and Freestyle will share the water with competitors bidding to win world titles in Runabout GP2 & 4 and Ski GP2 & 3, with riders from as far-a-field as Australia and New Zealand, the USA, China and the Middle East and right across Europe set to face three days of intense non-stop competition.
The line-up for the 2017 world championship and the year ahead is impressive and includes a raft of World, European and National Champions, as well as an influx of talented newcomers.
In all categories the defending world champions head the listings; in Runabout GP1 Kuwait’s Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq is aiming to become the first rider to win three consecutive titles and take his tally to four. But he faces some tough challengers, Briton James Bushell, Swede Lars Akerblom and Denmark’s Marcus Jorgensen. Also looking to unseat the champion is world ranking number 1, two-time championship runner-up and four-time European champion Jeremy Perez.
There is strength in depth in Runabout and a host of podium finishers all capable on their day of mixing it at the front, Christophe Agostinho, Andrzej Wisniewski and Johan Johansson as well as a clutch of newcomers all looking to make a name for themselves; Burak Erverdi, Guy Greenland, Carl Lampe, James Masterton and Anton Pankratov .
In Ski the intense rivalry between the world’s top three will continue, with champion Jeremy Poret chasing a staggering fifth crown and having to contend with the likes of Kevin Reiterer and Stian Schjetlein, not to mention his brothers Mickael and Morgan and veteran Alberto Monti.
Missing from the fight will be Spain’s Nacho Armillas who is likely to be out for most of the season after breaking his leg in Zadar at the opening round of the European Continental Championship.
Joining the tour are series newcomers, Luc Hermsen from the Netherlands and Belgian rider Quinten Bossche, who won the Ski GP3 world title in Denia, Spain last year. Returning full time is Hungary’s Gabor Szabo, Lukas Binar from the Czech Republic and USA rider Kyle Araiza.
In the Ladies division Emma-Nellie Ortendahl will undoubtedly be the bookies favourite to retain her title, with Estelle Poret, Virginie Morlaes, Kylie Ellmers, Jonna and Sofie Borgstrom, Lisa Caussin Battaglia and Marta Sorrentino all hoping they can produce something special to challenge the champion.
Three newcomers join the line-up this season; multiple Estonian champion Katriin Nilbe from Tartu, four-time Latvian champion Krista Uzare from Riga and Portuguese champion Joana Graca from St Estevão.
Freestyle is arguably the biggest crowd puller on the UIM-ABP tour and the man to beat is without doubt defending and four-time champion Rok Florjancic who will be looking to add to his current 17 Grand Prix win haul, his main opposition is most likely to be brother Nac.
The Slovenian duo from Maribor have locked out the title for the last five years, Nac winning it in 2012 before big brother took over, the pair racking up an impressive 20 Grand Prix titles and 22 podiums.
The daunting task of facing off against them falls to 2015 world ranked number 1 and European Champion Roberto Mariani and fellow Italian Alberto Camerlengo.
The action kicks off on Friday, 2 June for all classes with free practice in the morning starting at 09:30hrs [local] followed by official qualifying starting at 16:00hrs.
[For further information and to watch all motos on Saturday and Sunday streamed live, visit aquabike.net]