Dubai clinch dramatic XCAT Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole

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A stunning backdrop for the competitors.

The Dubai team of Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali claimed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole with minutes to spare with the fastest lap of 2:27.771 in qualifying at the final round of the UIM XCAT World Series on Thursday.

Locked in a three-way battle, it looked like T-Bone Station (Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson) had pole position sewn up after powering ahead of XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi), with around 12 minutes to go with a lap of 2:27.804.

But in a strategic move, the Dubai boat waited until the final five minutes of the session to push for pole.

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With the top three boats all within three tenths of one another, Friday’s race is set to be an enthralling affair.

Throttleman Al Ali gave plenty of credit to his driver Al Adidi.

“I am so happy – I have a lion in my boat,” said Ali. “Salem did such a good job on the turns. I didn’t slow down for him. I came full throttle and he made the turns. He’s a lion.”

“We are very happy to be in first place. We are so excited about this very flat water – we love these conditions. It’s fantastic so we knew we had to push and to get this pole to show everybody we are good,” said Al Adidi. 

“We knew it was very close. The top three were very close but we knew we could improve more and more every time so we waited until five minutes before the chequered flag and I said: ‘Ok Eisa, let’s go! We will beat everybody’.”

This result is a far cry from the Dubai boat’s disastrous fourth round of the XCAT World Series just a few months ago in Australia where the duo managed to flip their boat twice during the race weekend.

The conditions there were vastly different, however, compared to the silky smooth water in the UAE capital this week.

With Dubai first, T-Bone Station second and XDubai third, the battle to that first buoy will likely be a battle of note.

Starting in fourth position will be the Abu Dhabi team of Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori who are currently one point off the overall Series lead.

Occupying the final spot in the top gate will be the Lady Spain team of Jay Price and Shaun Torrente. 

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Focused: Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Tayer and Faleh Al-Mansoori will look to boost their title challenge in the UIM XCAT World Series on Thursday after a frustrating day in the build-up to Friday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori, who head into final round of the series just a point behind XDubai’s defending champions Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi, were unable to take part in the Abu Dhabi Match Race, staged to mark UAE National Sports Day, because of engine problems.

“Our left engine developed an electrical problem and the mechanics will work on it overnight to get the boat ready,” said Al-Tayer.

“It was disappointing to miss the race but we still expect to be able to fight for the championship, and hopefully win it.”

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Aiming to secure a second world powerboat title for Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club in the space of three weeks, Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori will be looking to earn vital bonus points in the Thursday afternoon Dubai Duty Speed Cat Run, a dramatic head-to-head shootout over a 1km course between the Abu Dhabi Corniche and Breakwater.

Teams carried out their final checks in inclement water conditions today to make their final preparations for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix during official practice and a series of Match Races.

Team Abu Dhabi 5 was not the only absentees on the day, as both XDubai’s Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi, as well the other crew still in the title hunt, Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli Six, also missed the practice session.

Twelve of the 15 boats were permitted on to the race course for official practice and the Italian T-Bone Station crew of Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson topped the lap times, despite windy and cloudy conditions and drizzle persisting throughout the one-hour stint.

Majed Al-Mansoori and Rashed Al-Qemzi in Abu Dhabi 4 ran for four laps and were classified in fifth position behind T-Bone Station, Lady Spain, Dubai and Yachts.

Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori kept their cards close to their chest and didn’t take to the water in the session 
after a minor left engine issue needed resolving.

With gusting winds creating difficulties with the setting of the match race course, the drag race event was delayed and with more storm weather on the way the conditions could have a big bearing on the climax of the XCAT World Series.

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A full fleet of powerboats are expected to be in action in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Powerboats which were badly damaged by inclement weather conditions in Saturday’s Dubai GP should be ready to take the start line for the sixth and final round of the UIM XCAT World Series in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Seven of the 14 boats that started last weekend’s race failed to finish and one, Gold Coast Australia, didn’t even make it to the start after taking on water and almost sinking during the second official practice on the day of the race.

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But four days later, all the boats should be in the UAE capital and ready to race at the event which is free of charge to the general public.

The massive repairs to the transom of Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton’s Gold Coast Australia boat should be completed late on Tuesday afternoon or evening with the boat scheduled to arrive in the UAE capital on Wednesday morning, ready for the first official practice.

Meanwhile, the Six boat of Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli, which took a spectacular underwater dive and damaged the bottom of the boat when the duo were leading the race on Saturday, is also due in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday morning but may miss the first practice.

“They have fixed the hole and have worked on an area of about 150cm on the left sponson,” explained Nicolini.

“First they had to fix this. They have finished that but now they have to finish the exterior parts of the boat.

“We should be in Abu Dhabi tomorrow [Wednesday] morning and once there we will fix the last parts – the engine mounts, the brackets etc. We will probably skip the first official practice and be in the water for the first time on Thursday,” added the Italian.

“We are very happy that we will be ready on time. This was only possible because it happened in Dubai and the Victory Team could do the repairs. I was quite surprised by how quickly they got this fixed.”

While the repairs may have added stress to the build-up to the Abu Dhabi race, there could be some unforeseen benefits to the drama.

“The boat could actually be even better than before because during the repair we found some minor issues which we fixed and also replaced some minor electrical faults so we are confident,” explained Nicolini, who with Polli is currently in third place in the overall Series standings.

Meanwhile, the Swecat team of Erik Stark and Mikael Bengtsson are also confident of taking the water on Wednesday.

Their heartbreaking end to the Dubai GP was brought about by engine failure on the last lap – while they were in second place.

The Swecat engines and hull have been repaired in Abu Dhabi and they should be in the pits at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) on Wednesday morning.

The Swecat team are currently fourth in the overall Series standings but all eyes will be on the fascinating showdown between the top two teams gunning for ultimate glory – XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi) who are top with 139 points and the home side – Abu Dhabi Team (Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) who are just one point behind on 138.

Official practice takes place from 2-3pm on Wednesday with a once-off Match Race (two boats pitted against each other over long and short laps) taking place from 3.30-4.30pm in celebration of UAE National Sports Day.

The all-important race for Pole Position takes place from 11am-12.30pm on Thursday with the head-tohead Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run from 3.30-4.30pm. The main race, the Abu Dhabi GP, is scheduled for 3.30pm on Friday and entry for the entire weekend’s festivities is free of charge for the general public.

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