P1 targeting USA and Asia but World Championship ‘four or five years away’
By Simon Ward
Powerboat P1, the organiser of international powerboat racing events, hopes to return to Asia, with a prominent showcase, later this year, but it could be 2023 before a truly global series is in place.
With a restructuring of the calendar, P1 has taken the decision to restrict its elite SuperStock racing, featuring P1 Panther boats (pictured, above), to a national series in USA this year, meaning that there are no races in the UK, another prominent market for the sport, for the first time since the concept was launched there in 2011.
However, the promoter does anticipate going back to the UK in due course and, in the meantime, will stage various personal watercraft races in Europe in the AquaX and Jetcross classes, and possibly a SuperStock event in Asia at the end of 2018, or in 2019.
Speaking to Sportcal from Orlando ahead of the international race season, which includes five SuperStock events in Florida, P1 chief executive Azam Rangoonwala said: “We’ve had some amazing traction in the US in recent years, and are upgrading the engines for 2018.”
There were three SuperStock races in Europe in 2017 (in Aalborg, Denmark, in Greenock, Scotland, and in Milford Haven, Wales, with the fourth event in Scarborough, England cancelled), but the continent will only stage AquaX and Jetcross jet ski racing this year, with the UK, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain serving as hosts.
Rangoonwala (pictured, below) said: “With SuperStock in the UK itself, we’ve had issues with the weather and [numbers of] spectators, but also great success in Wales and Scotland last year.
“With the changes to the engines, it [having no powerboat races in the UK] is a temporary situation. We will race again in Europe, whether that’s next year, or the year after has yet to be decided. In the past, we’ve had to push a lot of teams to get involved, and it’s been a bit last minute. Now we’re planning a year or two in advance.”
P1, whose events are sanctioned by the UIM, the international powerboating federation, entered new waters in 2017, with the Indian Grand Prix of the Seas, a one-off SuperStock event in Mumbai, and while this will not be repeated this year, the promoter has its eye on other markets in Asia.
Rangoonwala said: “We’re not going back to India [in 2018] though it was a great event and got some awesome coverage. We’re speaking to Hong Kong at the moment, and there’s a few other venues we’re talking to about a multi-year deal or single events.”
He expects to know later this month whether such events will take place in 2018 or 2019.
Another potential target is the Middle East, a powerboating stronghold, and there is “open dialogue” with China, and plans in motion at a new marine development in Labuan in Malaysia.
Rangoonwala said: “What is very exciting with SuperStock is a partnership with a company in Malaysia which wants to take on a series. They’re starting with AquaX, and then the plan is to have some SuperStock boats there. We will build 10 for them, and ship them over, and they should be there by the end of the year.”
The previous effort by P1 to operate a global series foundered in 2010 when it withdrew from the then Powerboat P1 World Championship, which actually only comprised events in Europe, claiming that the business model was “unsustainable,” and, given the high costs and logistics involved in powerboat racing, Rangoonwala does not see this ambition being realised in the short-term.
He said: “With a successful Malaysian series, and another one next year, I’d say four or five years. I do see having one or two World Championship events per year in the next one or two years.”
At present the focus is on the P1 SuperStock USA series, which gets under way with an inaugural event at the renowned Miami Marine Stadium, built in 1963, on 22 April, and also takes in Kissimmee, effectively P1’s home town venue, Jacksonville, St Pete Beach and Sarasota, all with supporting AquaX events.
Rangoonwala said: “We’re going to an iconic venue in Miami for the first time. It’s quite a short season, from April to July, with the idea being to generate as much excitement as possible, ending in Sarasota on the 4th of July [holiday] weekend.”
The final SuperStock round on 30 June will form part of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix Festival, an annual event now in its 34th year, and with P1 as organiser for the fourth year running.
The festival, which will also feature an offshore Grand Prix involving larger boats on 1 July, represents the high point of the P1 season given that it is one of the biggest showcases for the sport in the world, attracting 50,000 to 75,000 spectators to the viewing beach.
CBS Sports Network, the national cable and satellite broadcaster, will televise a one-hour special on the Grand Prix on 22 July, complementing coverage of the P1 SuperStock series already available on Fox Sports Florida and other regional networks in USA.
P1 works with Greenlight TV, the UK-based broadcast and production firm, on international programming that goes out two to three weeks after its events, and is again expected to reach more than 150 countries in 2018, and has recently appointed UK agency Champions to implement a global communications strategy that will include new social media initiatives.
On the sponsorship side, brands have tended to align themselves with individual events or teams, but P1 is starting to attract partners for multiple properties, announcing this month that HotelPlanner.com has signed up as the official hotel bookings partner of the whole 2018 season, and title sponsor of the Sarasota festival.
The international calendar comprises 19 race weekends in six different countries, starting with an AquaX race in Torquay in south-west England on 14 April, and culminating with a corresponding event in Fort Lauderdale in Florida on 17 and 18 November.
Rangoonwala believes the foundations are now in place for organic growth at P1, and to create a pathway for the development of drivers.
He said: “We built this [new structure] to get away from cheque book racing. It’s really about making it affordable, with a commercial model, rather than for rich guys having a good time.”
Rangoonwala concluded: “We have a pretty solid three-to-five-year plan. We’ve done a bit of restructuring, with only P1 SuperStock out here [in USA]. We feel like we’re prepared for 2018, and that it’s going to be a really great year.”