Al Wasl’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi played their long lap strategy to good effect to reach the chequered flag 7.3 seconds ahead of Victory 33’s one-off partnership of American Gary Ballough and Emirati Ahmed Al-Hameli, who started the race from pole position and led for long periods throughout.

Australia’s Blue Roo, flipped during qualifying, resulting in an uphill struggle for the team to secure the 2017 XCat Championship after leading the series in the first three races in China.  Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori struggled with engine issues to finish eighth overall in race one of the Dubai Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2017 UIM XCAT World Championship, off Palm Jumeirah on Friday afternoon.



Victory Team’s Salem Al-Adidi and Eisa Al-Ali shadowed their team-mates at the start of the race where the second Victory boat had been introduced to bolster the Dubai team’s chances of retaining the XCAT title. But they were pipped to third position on the final lap by Swecat Racing’s Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark, although they remain firmly in contention to win the title on Saturday.
The Blue Roo’s Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik-Nilsen severely dented their title ambitions after inverting their boat in the morning’s qualifying session. They managed to change boats for the race to use the old Lady Spain hull, and gained points for 10th place. It means that Team Australia and Victory 3 will go head-to-head to decide the outcome of the championship on Saturday (tomorrow), with Team Abu Dhabi having an unofficial mathematical chance of snatching the silverware.
Both Victory boats locked out the top two places on the starting grid with defending champions Al-Zafeen and Bin Hendi in third place in calm conditions. Engine issues prevented Team Abu Dhabi from progressing through Q1 and they started near the rear of the field for the delayed race to be held over one start lap, two long laps and 13 normal tours of the Palm Jumeira course. Team Australia was forced to change to the old Lady Spain boat to ensure that they started the race after the morning’s accident.
Al Wasl started well but Victory 33 held the line through the opening turns to maintain the advantage from Al Wasl and Victory 3. Team Abu Dhabi also made a good start, but 33 began to edge away from their rivals and Team Abu Dhabi opted for an early long lap. Caccia Engineering held fourth position and the leaders held station through four laps until Victory 3 took a long lap and Fujairah Team moved into fourth. Caccia Engineering, Swecat and Gasbeton held fifth, sixth and seventh positions. Team Abu Dhabi had work to do in eighth and Team Australia (badged as Lady Spain) were 10th.
Victory 33 stayed out in front as the race progressed through seven laps from Al Wasl, Victory 3, Caccia Engineering and Swecat Racing, but long lap strategies came into play soon afterwards, and Al Wasl snatched the lead from Victory 33 and Victory 3 with New Star, Swecat Racing, Caccia Engineering, Fujairah Team, 222 Offshore, Team Abu Dhabi and Team Australia running behind with a little over four laps to run.


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Caccia Engineering slipped back to ninth after incurring a one-lap penalty, as Al Wasl maintained a five-second advantage over Victory 33 and continued to edge away from Victory 3. Caccia Engineering then incurred a second lap penalty for another course infringement and the victorious Al Wasl reached the chequered flag ahead of Victory 33, but a late long lap by Victory 3 meant that they were passed on the closing metres by Swecat Racing for third place.
Report by: Audrey Perkins