Team Abu Dhabi made maximum use of home knowledge to come out fastest at the end of official practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the final round of the 2016 UIM XCAT World Series at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Wednesday evening.
With a total of 12 boats and 24 drivers from nine countries battling it out in Friday afternoon’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, excitement is bound to be at its peak in the overall standings.
But it was Wednesday’s final official practice session that was crucial for teams to gain an understanding of racing conditions going into the final weekend of the season. Going into the official final practice session, it was the Victory Team pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi in the lead with the best time of 2 minutes, 20.553 seconds leaving Francois Pinelli and Saul Bubacco in Yacht as second best with a time of 2:21.487 minutes, while home team heroes Majed Al Mansoori and Rashed Al Tayer in Abu Dhabi 5 clocked in third best with 2:21.515 minutes.
However, Al Mansoori and Al Tayer ran a perfect ninth lap to be timed at 2:19.194 leaving Victory Team’s Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi in second, while stablemates Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali in Dubai 33 were third best with an improved time of 2:20.765 minutes after only six laps out on the course.
“I think the second best time is good enough for us in this new boat,” Al Zaffain said after the practice session.
“We are pleased with what this new vessel has been showing us, and I am sure we will continue improving as we get familiar with the specs,” he added.
Throughout the 2016 season, it has been Dubai-based Victory Team throwing down the marker with Nadir Bin Hendi and Arif Al Zaffain winning three races outright to secure yet another world crown. As the team from Dubai sits on top of the standings with a total of 129 points, the focus will now be on Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton in their Gold Coast Australia boat and Swecat Racing’s Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark in the next two spots.
The Australian duo finished with two second places and one sixth for a total of 79 points, while eight points adrift is Swecat Racing with 71 points with two third places and a sixth in Lugano in June.
Unperturbed by all this drama, Victory Team will be trying out their brand-new Generation 2 boat that has been especially commissioned to adapt to the new four-stroke engines while enhancing boat safety and maximum engine performance.
Also in the fray for the runner-up spot are Al Adidi and Al Ali in their Dubai 33, followed by the Abu Dhabi Team 5 pairing of Al Mansoori and Al Tayer with 70 and 64 points, respectively.
Wednesday’s official practice session was followed by a mandatory meeting for team managers at the ADIMSC meeting room to discuss various aspects of the rules laid down by the UIM for next season.
Thursday’s schedule will consist of the EMAAR Pole Position from 11 am to 12.30 pm, followed by the ultra-exciting head- to-head Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run from 3.30 to 4.30 pm off the ADIMSC breakwater.
The DDF Speed Cat Run will be followed by the prize-giving ceremony before boats start preparing for Friday’s Abu Grand Prix – the fourth and final round of the 2016 UIM XCAT World Series.