FUJAIRAH (UAE): Sunday, April 8: The 2018 UIM XCAT World Championship gets underway in Fujairah this weekend (April 11-13) and Team Abu Dhabi is aiming to claim the prestigious title this season by fielding two boats in the offshore racing series.
Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori will race in the brand new American-built Team Abu Dhabi 5, while the team’s new F1 H20 signing Shaun Torrente teams up with Faleh Al-Mansoori in a revised Team Abu Dhabi 4. The boat has been widened and lengthened in the close season and the finishing touches were completed at the end of last week.
Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori tested the new hull in the USA and carried out further testing off the Abu Dhabi Corniche last Thursday before heading off to Fujairah. Torrente flew to Milan at the end of last week and then on to Abu Dhabi to test Team Abu Dhabi 4 with his new team-mate. Both crew members are relishing the chance to tackle a full programme of XCAT racing together, starting on the UAE’s east coast this weekend.
Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC.
The racing team runs under the auspices of the ADIMSC and board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi. Team Abu Dhabi has also appointed a new Team Manager to oversee the XCAT racing programme. Talib Al-Sayed will be hoping for a positive start to what promises to be a thrilling season of offshore racing after being impressed at a test session last week in Abu Dhabi.
“We will run two boats with an experienced team and the goal is, of course, to win the championship and try and complete a hat-trick of titles this year in XCAT, F1 and F2. This race is the start of a busy season for Team Abu Dhabi,” said Salem Al-Remeithi.
Torrente said: “I am excited to start the season and for the foundations we are trying to build as a team with Talib as our new team manager. He is bringing a technical aspect to the team that we needed and a clear direction. We are really at the beginning of what we are building. We want to win, but I’m not sure if we are at that level yet. If everything runs perfectly, maybe! Faleh and I need to become as one in the boat. Sometimes that happens immediately and sometimes it takes a little time.”
Competition is likely to be intense this season, even after the recent news that Dubai’s Victory Team has withdrawn from the series to pursue an American racing programme. Team Australia’s Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik-Nilsen were very strong last year and Tom Barry-Cotter returns to the series in a second Australian boat, Maritimo.
Swecat Racing’s Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark were competitive last season and the Fujairah Team’s own Italian duo of Serafino Barlesi and Alessandro Barone ran strongly on occasions. The Russian New Star team, Lady Spain and the Al-Wasl crew of Nadir bin Hendi and Arif Saif Al-Zafeen will also be hoping to prevent Team Abu Dhabi reaching the top step of the podium on the demanding Indian Ocean course.
Torrente added: “We need to beat whoever is there. Team Australia ran very well last year and Maritimo is back and they have been preparing for over a year to come back. Of course, Arif and Nadir are back and will be working hard, (Darren) Nicholson and (Giovanni) Carpitella should be good and New Star should be better. It should be a fantastic championship, really close and really fun.”
XCAT Racing officials had originally planned an ambitious calendar of European, Middle Eastern and Chinese races for 2018. The scheduled races in Sochi and Armenia have now been cancelled and that places added importance on Team Abu Dhabi collecting valuable points in Fujairah before a further three or four races in China in late summer and the finale in Dubai at the end of November.
The opening round is being hosted by the Fujairah International Marine Sports Club under the directorship of Ahmed Ibrahim Mohamed. Technical scrutineering will take place on Tuesday, April 10 and official practice (12.00hrs) and pole position qualifying (15.30hrs) will follow on Wednesday afternoon (April 11).
A second practice session, including access to the long lap, is scheduled for Thursday morning from 11.00hrs and the first of the weekend’s two races fires into life at 15.30hrs.
The final practice session is planned for the slightly earlier time of 10.30hrs on Friday morning and the second of the weekend’s races brings the action to a conclusion from 15.30hrs.