Action got underway in the 2016 UIM World Class 1 Championship at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Monday afternoon with the first official practice session on the demanding course laid on by the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
Team Abu Dhabi made the last minute decision to put last year’s championship winning partnership of Gary Ballough and John Tomlinson back together in boat number 6 – the first of the two pristine American-built Mtis – while Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori lined up in Team Abu Dhabi 5 and Faleh Al-Mansoori reverted to racing in the Team Abu Dhabi XCAT – the category which will be permitted to run this week behind the Class 1 field.
Ballough and Tomlinson clocked a best time of 2min 46.816sec on the second lap of their first two lap stint in the 90-minute session and then went even faster with consistent third and fourth laps of 2min 45.237sec and 2min 45.357sec, only to be edged out of winning the session by Victory 3’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi with a flying seventh lap of 2min 44.523sec. Fractions of a second separated both boats and this sets up the prospect of a thrilling duel between the great Class 1 rivals over the next four days.
Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori made a cautious start to their week of Class 1 racing and opening laps of 2min 58.411sec and 2min 56.095sec were followed by a propeller change, but they were not able to beat their earlier time in setting sun and very low light at the Breakwater.
Multiple World Champions, Al-Zafeen and Bin Hendi, opened their account with two consistent laps of 2min 48.298sec and 2min 49.131sec. A propeller change then gave them a quicker fifth tour of 2min 47.566sec and the session-winning lap came on their seventh run with that time of 2min 44.523sec.
Italy’s Giovanni Carpitella joined forces with England’s Class 1 debutant Ian Blacker for the first time aboard Zabo Racing’s Relekta 91 and went out at the end of the session for one non-timed lap to bed in their new engines in failing light.
They have their work cut out to challenge the trio of UAE boats when the first of the pole position qualifying sessions gets underway on Tuesday morning.
Nico Huybens and Daniel Cramphorn have graduated from success in V1 to enter the world of Class 1 racing with their Aquasport boat. The duo took a stunning win in Terracina two years ago and will be hoping to repeat that feat in the future, although the Belgian and his English former P1 racing counterpart missed out on Monday afternoon’s practice session.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Class 1 team manager Randy Scism said;
I think the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club has stepped up to the plate to host the World Championship, which is very much like the Key West meet that we have back in the USA every year with a three-race format in a week and you crown your World Champion.
If it hadn’t been for Abu Dhabi, Class 1 would have been in trouble and we owe them a lot of gratitude.
Let’s hope this is the beginning of a lot going forward.
They have some exciting ideas, so let’s hope it all works out.
Four of the boats here are the key teams in Class 1 that go along to all the races.
It should be a good series of races and a good battle.
Team Abu Dhabi is using the same MTis, numbers five and six, as we did in 2015.
We’ve gone back to the 850 Mercury engines from the one boat that had the Lamborghini engines last year, so we hope the performance on that one will be a little more than last time.
Just three days after confirming second place at the Abu Dhabi XCAT Grand Prix and third in the final standings in the UIM XCAT World Series, Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori have stepped up a gear so to speak to crew the larger and more powerful Class 1 boat in Team Abu Dhabi’s fleet.
Majed Al-Mansoori explained;
Class 1 and XCAT and like night and day, the boats are very different.
The speeds in Class 1 are higher and the handling of the Class 1 boat is perfect.
You need to take the turns smoothly to avoid a hook or a spin and then maximise the top speed potential.
The Class 1 has bigger engines and this makes it more important to be smooth.
Rashed and I have been testing many times and we have a good speed.
I really hope we can get a good result in the races this week.
The first of the three races to decide the outcome of the 2016 UIM World Championship takes place at 4pm on Tuesday afternoon and follows that first pole position qualifying session of the season, starting at 10.30am.
A Kilo Race will then take centre stage on Wednesday and races two and three will wrap up the four-day Class 1 racing festival on Thursday and Friday.
There is free admission for spectators and a food court and entertainment are in situ throughout race days, adjacent to the pit area, on the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.
2016 UIM Class 1 World Championship – practice times (Monday):
1. Victory 3 – Arif Saif Al-Zafeen (UAE)/Nadir Bin Hendi (UAE) – 2min 44.323sec
2. Team Abu Dhabi 6 – Gary Ballough (USA)/John Tomlinson (USA) – 2min 45.237sec
3. Team Abu Dhabi 5 – Rashed Al-Tayer (UAE)/Majed Al-Mansoori (UAE) – 2min 56.095sec
Zabo Racing-Relekta 91 – Giovanni Carpitella (ITA)/Ian Blacker (GBR) – DNS
Aquasport 99 – Nick Huybens (BEL)/Daniel Cramphorn (GBR) – DNS