Long rollers coming in off the Gulf of Oman made stretches of the course a little tricky but nothing that the fleet of twelve teams couldn’t manage. From the green flag Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi powered away from the pole sitters Tomaso Polli and Matteo Nicolini in ‘Six’ and never looked like being caught from that moment onwards.
‘We have found the perfect set up for the start of the race’ said Al Zaffain, ‘so we knew we could get ahead of them before the first buoy. The race was not easy though because all the teams are strong.’
‘It was a fantastic race today’ said his team-mate Bin Hendi. ‘The hard-work put in by the whole team paid off, they did an excellent job, and we are all extremely happy as we head to Dubai.’
The result certainly makes Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi strong favourites to capture the XCAT world crown on their home waters in next weekend’s decisive Dubai Grand Prix, although their closest rivals, who finished third on the day, said they will battle all the way to the finish.
‘It’s not over yet’ said Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori Al Tayer. ‘We have a lot of ground to make up and Arif and Nadir are working well together so they will be exceedingly difficult to catch. We knew taking pole position today would give us our best chance in the race’ said Rashed Al Tayer, ‘so now that’s what we’ll be aiming for in Dubai and we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”
After finishing second and fourth in the previous two back-to-back races held off the Fujairah International Marine Club, Al Tayer and Al Mansoori were given a virtual mountain to climb after qualifying fifth in today’s pole position qualifier and left the podium with a sense of relief.
Team-mates Shaun Torrente and Faleh Al Mansoori, race winners forty-eight hours earlier in Abu Dhabi 5, began the day well by setting the fastest time in official practice. The 2018 World Champions then had to settle for third place in qualifying however, and fourth position in the race also leaves them fourth overall in the championship. ‘I made a terrible start today’ said Torrente ‘plus I also chose the wrong size propeller which let us a little short and immediately on the back foot. It is what it is, but we are both determined to round off this year’s season with a big finish in Dubai.’
Racing alongside Torrente and Al Mansoori in the initial stages of the race were the Victory Team’ s Erik Stark and Mohamed Alyammahi. The new driver combination is certainly getting used to each other.
‘The Victory Team’s plan has always been for me to train inexperienced drivers’ said Stark, ‘especially this year.’ They knew as the week went on that they would become more competitive, and it looked like a good result was on the cards today till one of their propellers lost a blade. ‘As soon as I began to feel a vibration, I knew we probably still had about sixty per cent of the race to go, so we both decided to back off and try and collect as many points as possible.’
The plan worked as they are now fifth overall and just five points behind Torrente and Al Mansoori. ‘To be in that position is beyond our thoughts’ continued Stark ‘when you consider that the team ahead of us in the championship have been racing together for years, some even decades, the fact we can be this close so soon I think is impressive.’
The action gets back under way off Dubai’s Sunset Beach on Wednesday 8 December with ‘Free Practice.’ This is followed by ‘Pole Position’ and the ‘Speed Cat Run’ for the Dubai Trophy on Thursday 9 December with Race One taking place on Friday 10 December at 15:00 local time.
UIM XCAT World Championship standings:
- Dubai Police (UAE) Arif Al Zaffain/Nadir Bin Hendi 91pts
- Abu Dhabi 5 (UAE) Rashed Al Tayer/Majed Al Mansoori 78pts
- Six (MC) Tomaso Polli/Matteo Nicolini 74pts
- Abu Dhabi 4 (UAE) Shaun Torrente/Faleh Al Mansoori 57pts
- Victory Team (UAE) Erik Stark/Mohamed Alyammahi 52pts
- New Star (RU) Mikhail Kitashev/Dmitry Vandyshev 48pts
- 222 Offshore (IT/AU) Giovanni Carpitella/Darren Nicholson 47pts
- Pasta Amato (IT) Alfredo Amato/Saul Bubacco 29pts
- HPI Racing Team (IT) Rosario Schiano Di Cola/G.S. Di Cola 23pts
- Foresti E Suardi (IT) Roberto Lo Piano/Giampaolo Montavoci 22pts
- Kuwait (KW) Abdullatif Al Omani/Moustafa Al Dashti 14pts
- Team GB (UK) Scott Williams/Martin Campbell 11pts
- Swecat Racing (SE) Sebastian Growth/Joakim Kumlin 0pts
Pictures by Xcat Worldchampionship