An interview with Chris Parsonage Racing & Maritimo Australia Powerboat driver Pal Virik Nilsen, talking about his journey so far and all things Powerboating!
|Name:||Pal Virik Nilsen|
|Occupation:||Offshore Class-1 & F2 Powerboat Racer.
Maritimo Australia and Chris Parsonage Racing
1996: – Norwegian Cup Champion Circuit.
1996: – Nordic Champion Circuit.
1996: – 3rd World Championship Circuit.
1997: – Norwegian Champion Circuit.
1998: – World Champion Circuit.
1998: – European Champion Formula 4.
2001: – Norwegian Champion Circuit.
2001: – 2nd European Championships, Offshore.
2002: – 3rd World Championships, Offshore.
2002: – 2nd Nordic Series, Formula 2.
2004: – 2nd Norwegian Championships, Offshore.
2005: – 2nd Norwegian Championships, Offshore.
2008: – Australian Champion Class-1.
2009: – Australian Champion Class-1.
2009: – 3rd European Championship Class-1.
2010: – Australian Champion Class-1.
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule and talking to us today. So, what have you been up to this year?
Hi guys, no problem it’s a pleasure. Well, this year has been very busy for me so far! I’m in the very privileged position of having 2x Class-1 contracts this season, with two fantastic teams: Maritimo Australia & Chris Parsonage Racing GBR. Having these commitments means I get to travel a lot between races in both the Australian Superboat series and the World Series as well. I try to keep myself fit as well with a bit of Mountain Biking and Squash – as this is important for the racing. I tend to do a lot of promotional work for the sponsors as well…so I’m always busy!
What do Powerboating competitions usually consist of?
My main priority is The Offshore Class-1 category, and this takes place over a weekend format. The race weekend for this will begin with team meetings and preparation throughout the week before the first official practice on a Friday. Then, after the Friday practice it tends to be the qualifying rounds and the first race on the Saturday.
The second race is a little bit longer and takes place on the Sunday. This format is quite challenging because the time schedule is tight and there is no room for error at all. I also race some circuit races in Formula 2, but only when my time allows it.
Where did you learn, and what made you start?
I started back in 1992 in junior classes as there was a good feeling and atmosphere toward powerboating in my hometown. I learned an awful lot from the many people around me at that stage, and I think it’s a key part of the progression – to listen to the experts in the beginning.
I love all kind of motor sport, but with the focus on Powerboating where I grew up – it was not a difficult choice to get involved in that scene.
What will the rest of 2011 hold for you?
In Australia, we are mid-season and have the races in Redcliffe, Geelong and Melbourne still left to complete. In the Class-1 World Championship we still have GPs to race in Italy, China and Dubai.
What boat do you drive?
I race a 40ft Maritimo catamaran made of Kevlar, Carbon and Fibreglass which weighs around 4000kg.
The engines that we use are different, but the standard set up is 2x 8.2litre Lamborghini V12 engines with approx 850hp per engine – with around 7600rpm. The others that we use are 9.2L V8 Mercury engines with 850hp per engine, with around 6100rpm and a supercharger. Both engine packages can be used in the Class-1 World Series.
In the Carbonfibre cockpit of the boat there are two pilots. One pilot operates the steering wheel and chooses the racing lines, analyses competitor positions on the circuit and makes the strategy during the race.
The other pilot is the throttle-man (my position). I have responsibility for the engines and of course for the throttles. I also use the trim adjusting the drive’s angles all of the time, to balance the boat and to prepare it for the corners and waves. I always look around 2-300 meters in front on full speed, to be prepared for wind and waves.
The cooperation between driver and throttle-man is vital and understanding each other’s style is imperative to the success of the team. This can generally only be achieved through experience of racing together, especially to be successful in Class-1 racing.
Where in the UK would you say are the best places for Powerboating?
I have one favourite place that I like to race at in the UK, and that is Plymouth. I raced Class-1 there in 2006 and all of the people there was so interesting, and also very interested in the event! That course is fantastic for both the drivers and for the spectators.
Another very good place in for Powerboating in England is the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes, Isle of Wight – as the circuit there is great and has a history that dates back a long way.
Where have been the best / your favourite places in the world for Powerboating?
Well, I’ve been very lucky and have raced boats in over 25 countries during a 20 year career… so it’s hard to choose just one! Powerboat racing is very popular in the Middle East, so I really enjoy going to go Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I must admit though, I love everything about Australia and it has been an absolute pleasure every time I have raced there with the Maritimo team.
What has been your best memory in Powerboating?
Wow, there is surely too much to mention… I guess winning the World Championship in Circuit Formula racing back in 1998 was most special, as it was a great moment to be on the Budapest River in front of fifty other competitors – and on the National day of Hungary.
The First time I got a Class-1 seat back in 2005 was also very special. Also racing for the legendary “Spirit of Norway” team in 2007 is a fond memory – and the season that I began racing with my Aussie Racing Partner Tom Barry-Cotter.
Have you ever been injured?
Sure I’ve been in a number of crashes. Eleven or twelve if I remember correctly! One time I hurt my neck in a circuit crash, and another time I was knocked unconscious in a Class-1 crash. But generally the safety is very good now, and fortunately there aren’t so many serious injuries for the pilots.
What sort of speeds do you race at? Are there any specific tricks or techniques as well?
Well it all depends on the setup. For instance, the weather, the propeller, the gears, the weight and the driving style all contribute massively to the overall drive and speed. But on a good day with a nice calm course, we can reach speed of around 140 knots – Approx 160mph.
Have there been any big developments in the sport during your time, and do you see any coming in the future?
The cockpits have been made a lot stronger over the last few years, especially after we lost two great pilots and friends in a tragic accident in 2009. Also, new rules this season stipulate making the equipment more durable and cheaper to run. The courses are shorter with more turns these days, so it makes it more technical and challenging for the pilots and the mechanics to set the boat up to be perfect for the race.
What tips would you advise for people looking to get started?
Find a local Club. Talk with people in the sport or get in contact with the national federation for more information.
If you’re interested in getting started in the fantastic world of Powerboating, why not begin with one of our great Powerboating Experiences where you can get to grips with a range of powerful boats with expert tuition – perfect for getting started!
Thanks very much for speaking with us today Pål, from everyone here – we wish you the best of luck with the rest of your races this year. If you’re interested to know more about the Class-1 Series or Pål’s journey in full, why not visit Pål’s webiste here.