Of the 45 boats that reportedly “answered the roll call” at the Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships drivers meeting this morning, a hefty seven percent of them were from the country of Qatar. Backed by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation, the team, which pulled into Key West, Fla., yesterday, is fielding catamarans in the Turbine, Superboat Unlimited and Superboat classes.
But while the turbine catamaran, Al-Adaa’am 96, a 50-foot Mystic driven by Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and throttled by Steve Curtis, has raced twice this year in United States waters and the Spirit of Qatar 20, a 42-foot Marine Technology Inc., cat piloted by Ali Al-Neama and Billy Moore competed several Superboat-class races this season, the team’s 41-foot Victory cat will hit the water in the Unlimited class in Key West for the first time.
Driven by Sheikh Hassan’s former Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 teammate Matteo Nicolini and driven by Qatar rally car champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, the 41-footer, called Spirit of Qatar 613, has been repowered with Mercury Racing 1350s for the three Key West races. Although the pair tested together last week in another 41-foot Victory cat in Doha, Qatar, they’ll log their first seat time together in the 1350-powered boat during tomorrow’s test sessions.
“We all left for the U.S. on Friday and we will have time at the start of the week to test the other race boat in the U.S.,” said Sheikh Hassan in press release from the team.”
Said fellow Superboat Unlimited offshore racer Marc Granet, the driver of Miss GEICO, on the prospects of Qatar’s Superboat Unlimited team, “I think they’ll be competitive. We know that boat is fast, and even though the water is predicted to be rough for all three races and a 41-foot Victory isn’t a big boat, Victory boats are very forgiving in rough water. Matteo is an experienced Class 1 throttleman and Nasser is a championship-winning rally car driver. I think they’re going to be tough competition.”