Powerboat P1 takes on Class 1 rights with plans to take series global
By Tariq Saleh
Powerboat P1, the organiser of international powerboat racing events, has been awarded rights to stage Class 1 offshore races on behalf of the UIM, the governing body for the sport, in an exclusive 10-year deal, and has already outlined a long-term goal for a global series.
The agreement includes organisational and promotional rights to the UIM Class 1 World Championship, which, in the absence of a promoter, has not been held since 2017.
It represents the highest level in the sport, and P1 will promote a six-venue series in 2021, with an aim to “restore the prestige of Class 1 at the pinnacle of offshore powerboat racing.”
All six events will be held in USA, but P1 chief executive Azam Rangoonwala has ambitious plans for the offshore series.
In an exclusive interview with Sportcal, he said: “Once we’re hitting the five-year mark, that would be the goal of taking it truly international. Taking that first step to do a one-off event, or maybe two venues which are close to each other, and then having four US venues and two outside and if it increases, maybe four and three.
“It will take a bit of time but by the fifth year, we would want to be at an international level, where there’s maybe four international races and two in the US. One of our targets and one of our strategies is really to look for sectors within which there is a lot of marine activity such as Scandinavia and Australia, but at the same time, there are opportunities in other regions as well.
“In the Middle East, there are a lot of good opportunities out there and we would love to have a strong Middle East round so it is definitely something which is now a good time to start conversations about.
“2021 is in the US only, but if we can sneak in one or two [events] in 2022 to be international, that would be great, and then we’re going to really be putting the pressure on in 2022 to bring on two to three by 2024 and 2025 and we’ll feel at that point we’ll be truly an international circuit.”
P1 is already the joint promoter of the APBA Offshore Championship, a multi-class race series that features Class 1 racing, which last year attracted teams from USA, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.
P1 has been unable to stage any events this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has used the time to plan ahead for the UIM Class 1 World Championship and formulate a long-term strategy.
Its other powerboat racing championship, P1 SuperStock, will run alongside Class 1 in USA together with other APBA offshore classes. In addition, P1’s AquaX racing series will be present at some Class 1 events.
The first Class 1 race of 2021 is scheduled to take place in May at Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
Welcoming the new tie-up, Raffaele Chiulli, the president of the UIM, said in a statement: "We are extremely pleased to have found a strong promotion partner for the UIM Class 1 World Championship, who laid open the hidden potential of this supreme offshore racing class last year in the United States.
"This is excellent news for the friends of spectacular offshore powerboat racing, and we look very much forward to taking the UIM Class 1 World Championship back where it belongs, to the pinnacle of offshore racing."
Despite a three-year absence, Rangoonwala claimed there is already strong commercial interest in the championship, and has been in discussions with potential sponsors, with a focus on some specific sectors.
He said: “We’re looking at the automotive sector for official truck partners and tow vehicles. We’re talking to trader manufacturers, which is somewhat industry related on all aspects, such as RVs. From a motorsport perspective, we’re looking at energy drinks partners and really across the board.
“We’re in discussions with various partners, on the industry side we’re working with [marine and automotive engine brand] Mercury Racing, and we’re looking at a few of the other industry brands to partner with as well.
“On the event and venue side, we’re in continuing discussions with the tourism boards of the locations that we race in as well as a few others to partner with us, so quite a large range but definitely the few I’ve mentioned are highest on the list and people that we are actively in conversations with.”
Rangoonwala added: “The 10 years is really important because it shows our commitment to it and for our partners that’s really important. There are various partners on the non-endemic side which we’re also in discussions with as well. It’s difficult times with Covid-19 but what has been good is most people have been relatively easy to get in touch with. With this announcement, and the schedule on the way, we’re hoping to create a bit of buzz.”
With “a strong line-up of international teams," P1 is also confident of landing both domestic and global television coverage, and is keen to provide live streaming.
Rangoonwala explained: “Our plans are in place and the ultimate goal is the six venues that we’re planning to announce will be internationally televised and distributed. In the US, we have been working with Fox Sports Regional Sports Networks, mainly Fox Sports Florida, and we’ve had great coverage through them so that’s planned.
“We also have coverage on CBS Sports Network so that’s in the books. Essentially from a US perspective we want to have national coverage, but we feel the RSNs provide a lot of value to us especially in Florida since four of our six events next year will most likely be there, so that’s important to us.
“Some of the brands we partner with are from the marine industry sector so they have a large footprint and it’s a large market which they’d like to tap into which is mainly in that region.
“Internationally, we plan to continue with our distribution. The beauty of Class 1 is we do have international teams and it does give us the angle of attack to make our international broadcast packages a little more attractive so we hope to continue with our international distribution which is over 100 countries.”
Outside of traditional television coverage, P1 is keen to use live streaming and new technology to reach a broader audience.
Rangoonwala has identified significant opportunities in the digital space which could enhance the attractiveness of the series.
He said: “On the media side, our long-term goal is to be live on the various broadcasters internationally, but we also do go live on our Facebook pages and we felt like that has actually produced a lot of interest and we’ve been getting a solid level of viewership within those Facebook Live streams.
“From the standpoint of the growth of live-streaming in general, we’re talking to a few telecommunications partners which can help us with that connectivity with the boats and the production team. Part of the pitch to the telecoms companies is to help us bring the action to the viewer and depending on how Covid-19 goes, that could be an advantage for us, being that the live-streams can be a bit more exciting.”
Rangoonwala continued: “For us it’s all about creating the fan base, in the past a lot of the fan base has come from super fans and with engagement, I believe we’re at a position where we’re able to do that a lot cheaper than before.
“In the past, the helicopter costs could be extremely high and now we have high-tech drones available which we can live-stream from so there is a lot we can do on the digital side to really provide value to some of our partners that we may not have been able to do five years ago and we feel we can develop that within the next few years as well as the fact that we’ve got such a solid base in the US.
“The international circuits rarely included the US, what we can do is bring the European, the Middle East and the US all together and potentially we’re looking at Asia as well. These circuits were international before, but we would like to make them truly international involving the entire world as well as digital connectivity and improving the fan base with the communications and technologies that are available now that may have not been five years ago.”