After winning just about everything from the world class 1 championship to the early XCat Series for Dubai’s Victory Team, Arif Saif Al Zaffeen and his driving partner Nadir Bin Hendi parted company with Victory and we quite rightly assumed their good times were behind them. How wrong we all were as this dynamic duo continued their winning ways by collecting maximum points in the opening round of the 2018 X Cat championship in Fujairah.
While it was all smiles in the winning Dubai Police 3 cat, it was a look of embarrassment in the Australian camp after two of their three cats ‘came together’ on the start line. Tom Barrie-Cotter and Ross Willaton in ‘Maritimo’ took an early bath when their cat flipped over after colliding with Pal Virk Nilsson’s ‘Team Australia’ and both boats retired from the action. Thankfully, the third Aussie cat ‘222 Offshore’ was not involved in the melee and its crew of Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson went on to claim the runner-up berth ahead of Erk Stark and Mikael Bengtsson aboard ‘Swecat’.
After the crash the race was restarted, and in choppy conditions ‘Dubai Police 2’ led ‘222 Offshore’ followed by the two Abu Dhabi cats. ‘Dubai Police 3’ maintained their early lead over ‘222 Offshore’, ‘Abu Dhabi 4′, Swecat’ and ‘Videx’. ‘Abu Dhabi 5’ took a long lap early on and slipped down the field heading into lap 6. ‘Dubai Police’ maintained its advantage from ‘222 Offshore’ and ‘Swecat’ into lap 8. The gap between the top two was 15 seconds after lap 9 with ‘Swecat’ a further seven seconds behind and heading ‘Abu Dhabi 4’ and ‘Videx’ while ‘Abu Dhabi 5’ was down in 9th place.
A decision was made to shorten the race to 12 laps and ‘Dubai Police’ held on to claim victory over ‘222 Offshore’, ‘Swecat Racing’, and ‘Team Abu Dhabi 4’ while ‘Abu Dhabi 5’ moved up two places over the closing kilometres to claim 7th place at the expense of ‘Videx’.
Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi had also claimed Pole Position ahead of their twelve rivals and that put the Dubai team over 1.6 seconds up on ‘Team Australia’ manned by the all-Norwegian crew of Pal Virik Nilsen and Jan Trygve Braaten. ‘Maritimo’ claimed third place, but the ‘Team Abu Dhabi’ duo of Falah Al Mansoori and Shaun Torrente had to settle for 6th place after topping the times in the morning’s Free Practice. ‘222 Offshore’ Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson slotted into 4th place while Rashid Al_tayer and Majed Al Mansoori put ‘Abu Dhabi’s new MTI cat on the start line in 5th place.
When XCats were launched virtually all were products of the Victory factory, but now several builders are getting involved. MTi are famed for the Open Class Superboats while American Doug Wright has enjoyed considerable success with his cats. This year all of the XCats are powered by Mercury 4 stroke outboards.
2018 FUJAIRAH GRAND PRIX – RACE 1 RESULT
1. Dubai Police 3 – Arif Saif Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Nadir bin Hendi (UAE) – 44min 37.49sec
2. Team Australia 8 – Pål-Virik Nilsen (NOR)/Jan Trygve Braaten (NOR) – 17.34sec
3. New Star 9 – Mikhail Kitashev (RUS)/Dmitry Vandyshev (RUS) – 32.56sec
4. Team Abu Dhabi 5 – Rashed Al-Tayer (UAE)/Majed Al-Mansoori (UAE) – 48.20sec
5. Kuwait 17 – Abdullatef Al-Omani (KUW)/Mustafa Al-Dashti (KUW) – 1min 14.98sec
6. CRB Offshore/HPI 96 – François Pinelli (FRA)/Rosario Schiano (ITA) – 1min 43.79sec
7. Fujairah 46 – Diego Testa (ITA)/Andrea Comello (ITA) – 2min 27.61sec
8. 222 Offshore 10 – Giovanni Carpitella (ITA)/Darren Nicholson (AUS) – 2min 34.67sec
9. Videx 22 – Alfredo Amato (ITA)/Joakhim Kumlin (SWE) – 4 laps behind
DNF – Team Abu Dhabi 4 – Shaun Torrente (USA)/Faleh Al-Mansoori (UAE)
DNF – Swecat Racing 2 – Mikael Bengtsson (SWE)/Erik Stark (SWE)
DNS – Maritimo 12 – Tom-Barry Cotter (AUS)/Ross Willaton (AUS)