The first-round win in this year’s three-race Union Internationale Motonautique Class 1 World Powerboat Championship went to the Victory 3 team of Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi following Tuesday’s opening round Grand Prix hosted by the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club off the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.
The Team Abu Dhabi 6 American duo of Gary Ballough and John Tomlinson played its lap strategy in a canny fashion, but could not match the Dubai-based crew in the end. The American driver and throttleman slowed up toward the end in their 48-foot MTI catamaran to reach the finish line nearly two minutes behind its rivals, who take a five-point advantage into the second race on Thursday afternoon.
Victory 3 started in pole position, held the advantage into the first turn and began to pull away down the back straightaway to secure a solid lead heading into the second lap. From there the team steadily increased its lead.
Italian Giovanni Carpitella and England’s Ian Blacker belied their lack of experience together to produce a solid performance and claim third overall in Zabo Racing-Relekta 91. A late engine change meant that Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori missed the start in Team Abu Dhabi 5. Plans to join the race after the start lap were thwarted when the work took longer than expected, leaving the local team disappointed.
Nico Huybens and Daniel Cramphorn battled against the clock to prepare their unbranded Aquasport 99 for the opening race. Badged and raced as Maritimo 12 by Peter McGrath and Giorgio Manuzzi in 2009 and then used by Zabo Racing for several seasons, Aquasport 99 eventually missed the opening race, but the crew vows to compete over the next several days.
Team Abu Dhabi manager Randy Scism, who owns MTI in Wentzville, Mo., said he decided against putting the No. 5 boat into action because it was too late to score race points—at least 70 percent of the race distance must be completed—and so he could give the mechanics time to get the boat ready for the rest of the world championships.
“The Victory guys are good—we are still trying to figure out the boat and get time in it,” Tomlinson said. “Class 1 is good racing. Whoever gets around that first buoy first will be in really good shape in any race. It’s a course that is very difficult to pass on. Even if you are 4- to 5-mph faster down the straights, it is very hard to pass.”
A kilo race is planned for Wednesday and three boats from the XCAT World Series will run behind the Class 1 boats in races two and three on Thursday and Friday. Dubai 33, Team Abu Dhabi 5 and Raheeb 17 are confirmed starters, although they will only run the short lap course for their race.