ABU DHABI // Team Fazza's Nader bin Hendi crashed out of the penultimate round of the four-race UIM Xcat Middle East Series yesterday to leave the championship wide open.
Bin Hendi went into the race having won the previous two, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
But his early exit handed the advantage to Rashid Khalifa al Marri, the Extreme Marine driver, who now has 1,000 points to bin Hendi's 800.
Al Marri led from start to finish in the eight-lap race over 48.79 nautical miles by the capital's breakwater, winning from Mohammed al Naser, the Team Qatar driver, and Spirit of Abu Dhabi, driven by Rashid al Tayer.
"I was side by side with Fazza on the first buoy and in front from thereafter. They were just behind me until they dropped out in the last turn of the second lap," said al Marri, who collected 400 points for the victory.
"I rode a safe race after Fazza's exit. But Fazza was not the only boat. The others were after me and it was not easy to maintain the lead. I felt some vibration towards the end but, thank God, the boat lasted the distance."
As al Marri went clear, Team Qatar, Spirit of Abu Dhabi and Team Dubai battled for second place before Team Dubai retired in the fifth lap because of engine problems.
Bin Hendi was left to rue his bad luck. "My boat brushed against the side of the Extreme Marine when we turned on the circuit's first buoy and the impact lifted me high in the air and the drop back to the water damaged the gearbox," he said.
"The series is delicately placed after this result and has generated a lot of excitement. Everything is possible in this sport, so fingers crossed."
Al Naser, who had never finished higher than fourth in the two previous races, said: "I am very satisfied with the result. It gives us more confidence ahead of the final race and a possible overall podium finish."
Al Tayer's Spirit of Abu Dhabi remained in third with Team Qatar moving ahead of Secoil in fourth.
Daniel Svenson, who was on the throttle of Sweden's Secoil, said they were happy to be able to participate in the competition.
"The Middle East series has the biggest fleet and it gives everyone an opportunity to be competitive and win," he said.
"The prize money is also pretty good as it covers up our trip but more important is the competition.
"A boat cost around Dh1.6 million and the running cost for the four races in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are around Dh250,000. The prize money is more [than] Dh600,000 per race, so it's really worth making the trip."
The race series has a total prize of Dh2.7m split over the four races and shared between the first 15 boats. The race series has drawn 20 boats from countries including Sweden, USA, Italy, France, Qatar and Kuwait.
Yesterday's race was rescheduled after the heavy winds and rough seas forced a postponement last weekend. The final race of the series will be in Dubai on Friday.