Rashid al Marri and Salem Fadel al Hamli turned in a dominant performance to win their second race of the UIM XCat Middle East Championships at the Dubai International Marine Club. Their boat, Extreme Marine, struggled to complete a lap in Friday's practice but zoomed ahead from pole position yesterday and finished five seconds ahead of Victory Team's Fazza 3, while the Abu Dhabi Racing Team 1, with Ahmed and Rashid al Hamli on board, finished third.
The first three finishers are all from the UAE. "We want to be No 1 in every race," said the Extreme Marine pilot al Marri, who was also top of the podium in Tuesday's first contest and dominated yesterday's race with speeds in excess of 160kph. Fazza 3, which limped out of the first race on Tuesday with gear problems, did well to move into second after starting from 19th in the 21-boat field and their world champion crew of Nadir bin Hendi and Arif al Zafeen were pleased with the podium finish.
"We haven't had much time to work on the boats," said al Zafeen. "We didn't think we would be able to race until half an hour before the race started. So we are really pleased to have done so well." Victory's second boat, Fazza 33, had to retire for the second race in succession after developing technical problems on the first lap. "It's frustrating, but the crew did everything to have the boat ready and were working on the motors late into the night," said Fazza 33's Abdullah al Mehairbi.
"Taleb [al Sayed] and I would have loved to have been involved right to the finish, but it wasn't to be and we'll now focus on the next two races in Abu Dhabi." The four-race championship will move on to Abu Dhabi for the final two races on April 25 and 29. The double-header in Dubai was the first powerboat race there after a tragic accident in December during the Class One World Powerboat Championships, which claimed the lives of Mohammed al Mehairi and Jean-Marc Sanchez.
Following an investigation into that accident, new guidelines and rules were developed and implemented for the XCat Series, with the cockpit area being strengthened to protect the pilots. But there was still some fears towards the finish of yesterday's race, which brought the red flags out. The Nicolini Offshore and Decomania boats brushed each other while negotiating a corner on the final lap, and the impact caused Nicolini Offshore to overturn. Pilots Luca Matteo and Luca Nicolini emerged unscathed.
"The course design has been controversial and some teams are unhappy with it," said Rory Power, the race director. "Teams want to control their own speed, which is all very well. But as organisers we are adamant that safety comes first. "As organisers we also have to find ways to control negativity that may accompany what may seem to some as overzealous safety decisions and not overreact. The combination of strengthening the cockpit, a modified course and the red flag to stop the race are the key elements of the new rules which have already proved very effective."
* Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi with agency