Team Abu Dhabi look to upset XDubai on home waters

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Out for victory: Team Abu Dhabi.

After waiting five years for their first world title, Team Abu Dhabi believe they have a fighting chance of making it two – helped by a big performance in the penultimate round of the 2015 UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai this weekend.

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Rashid Al-Tayer and Faleh Al-Mansoori know they will have to be at their best, and get some outside assistance, if they are to wipe out the 23-point championship lead held by XDubai’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi with two rounds remaining.

But Al-Tayer refuses to concede defeat in the title race, which moves quickly on from Dubai this weekend to its conclusion a week later at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

He has first set his sights on maximum bonus points in tomorrow’s Speed Cat Run, the drag race style event now a big part of any XCAT World Series weekend, and wants to follow up with victory in the Dubai Grand Prix 24 hours later.

“We have put a lot of effort into getting our set-up right for the drag race because we want those bonus points,” he said. “Then we will be going all out to win on Saturday.

“XDubai will be tough to beat on their home waters, but that’s what we’re hoping to do. There are some other very good teams, and if we can get out in front and some of them get between us and XDubai that could make a big difference in the points.”

Among their other main rivals will be the vastly experienced Ital- ian duo of Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli who are just five points adrift in third position in the championship.

Practice is 15:00 today at the Dubai International Marine Club at Mina Seyahi. The Pole Positon race gets underway at 11:00 on Friday, followed by the afternoon Speed Cat Run 15:00. The Dubai Grand Prix starts at 14:00 on Saturday. 

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14 of the world's best powerboat teams will compete in the UAE this weekend.

14 of the world’s best powerboat teams will compete in the UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai this weekend.

With official practice scheduled for Thursday, final preparations for round five of the event are being done on the boats at Dubai International Marine Club ahead of what promises to be a mouth-watering showdown.

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The three teams at the top of the overall Series standings are within striking distance of one another with two races to go this season, although it would take something special to catch the exceptional XDubai team who remain out in front after three race wins.

“We are expecting some good racing for the coming weekend,” said XDubai team manager Ragesh Elayadeth.

“Pilots are trained for all conditions, but definitely home ground will give some sort of extra boost to the pilots, so they should be more competent in Dubai,” he added.

The general public can watch this weekend's events free of charge.

As for what makes the XDubai pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi (at the top of the table with 131 points) such a seemingly unbeatable combination, Elayadeth explained: “They have been racing with each other for so long. They both are eager to win the races and they know each other. In other words they are two bodies with one soul in a racing boat.”

Asked whether the presence of the second-place Abu Dhabi Team (108 points) and thirdplace Six (103 points) not too far behind them on the standings adds more pressure going in to round 5, Bin Hendi maintained: “Challenges like this make you more competent, so we like challenges. It won’t add any pressure. Rather it will make us more focused.”

Al Zaffain added: “We are confident to defend our championship even though we expect tough competition from the other boats.”

Elayadeth is equally optimistic about the team’s chances at this weekend’s race – which the general public can attend free of charge.

“By looking at the weather forecast, it won’t be flat conditions. It will be little more choppy than normal so the crowd can expect an exciting race. All the boats are capable of winning a race on their day but yes, we are very confident about retaining the championship. We are cautiously confident.”

XDubai pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi have topped the table this season.

Also likely to be in the mix is the Gold Coast duo of Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton, who powered to second spot in their home GP in Australia in August. And also desperate for a bit of good luck will be the speedy T-Bone Station team of Giovanni Carpitella and Luca Fendi, looking to recover from a wretched season beset by mechanical problems.

The first official practice will get underway on Thursday, 19 November at 3pm while the race for Pole Position will take place on Friday at 9.30am.

The thrilling head-to-head Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run will then kick off at 3.30pm that same day. The Speed Cat Run follows a drag race format in a 1km long all out spectacle of speed.

The main race, the Dubai GP will take place on Sunday, 21 November at 2pm.

For more information on the Series, log on to www.xcatracing.com.

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Spectators can watch the event at the Dubai International Marine Club for free.

Italian powerboat duo Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli are taking nothing for granted heading into the fifth round of the UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai this weekend.

Perhaps that’s because the only race in which they failed to reach the podium in 2015 was in Dubai earlier this year.

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Apart from that slight blip, the pair in boat Six, claimed second spot in the season opener in Fujairah and finished third in both Cascais, Portugal in June and the Gold Coast, Australia in August. 

But with their success largely achieved in rough conditions this year, it’s Dubai’s usually flat water that could prove tricky. So Nicolini has taken steps to counteract the expected conditions at the Dubai International Marine Club – where entry for the general public to witness the spectacle of speed is free of charge this weekend. 

“It’s not too bad that we got on the podium three times when the sea conditions were rough but we missed the podium in the Dubai race that was almost flat,” said Nicolini.

“That meant that we needed to work on the boat to improve our speed performance and so that is what I am trying to do now for the last two races. “I am working on some hull modifications that [boat builders] Victory are doing now. I also have a new set of props done for these two races and two new gear cases with different water intake. 

“All of those upgrades should give us better performance to compete for a podium as well in this last two races,” he added.

Italian duo Nicolini and Polli are hoping to improve on last season's fifth place finish.

Nicolini and Polli are currently third in the overall Series standings, giving them a great opportunity for a significant step up from the fifth place in which they finished the 2014 season.

There are just five points separating Six from Team Abu Dhabi (Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) who are second on 108 points, while XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi) are well out in front with 131 points. 

Meanwhile, the event which takes place on 19-21 November will see the introduction of the new Mercury Racing four-stroke engines which were officially launched in the USA last week.

The UAE’s only female XCAT driver Fatima Al Zaabi and Italy’s Gianpaolo Montavoci will be testing the environmentally friendly engines in the #NewBoss boat to give the Dubai crowd a sneak peak of what’s to come when the XCAT Series make the switch to the new engines next year.

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