Dubai-based Rashid Al-Mulla has arrived in Italy and is making his final preparations to represent Team Abu Dhabi at the opening round of the 2018 UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship in Gallipoli.
The talented 31-year-old Emirati has entered the prestigious Freestyle category and will need to be at his very best this season if he is to stop the Slovenian Florjancic brothers, Rok and Nac, who have dominated the sport since 2012.
Between them the two brothers have amassed 42 heat wins and 22 Grand Prix victories. Nac won the world title last season after four years’ of domination by his brother. Al-Mulla finished third in the World Championship last year on his Xscream 1200rr and is currently ranked sixth in the world.
Team Abu Dhabi’s talented aquabike stuntman broke through the ranks last season and pushed the Slovenian duo to the limit with his spectacular routine of spins, flips and somersaults. He notched up 10 heat wins and three Grand Prix titles, culminating in stunning performances at the end of last season in Dubai and Sharjah.
But it is not guaranteed that the driver running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) and the Slovenian brothers will have it all their own way in this year’s six-GP calendar that features two Italian races, two in China and two in the UAE at the end of the year. Italy’s Roberto Mariani is the current European Champion and is ranked one in the world, while fellow Italian Alberto Camerlengo also has a point to prove in 2018.
The host venue is situated towards the southern tip of Puglia in the province of Lecce in south-east Italy. Gallipoli is a popular fishing port and tourist destination on the Salento peninsula.
The weekend’s racing is being organised by BeFree Sports & More under the auspices of the UIM and the Federazione Italiana Motonautica and Aquabike Promotion Ltd.
The Grand Prix will also feature racing in the Runabout GP1, Ski Ladies GP1 and Ski Division GP1 categories, but the Freestyle entrants will be able to take to the water for their opening 30-minute practice session from 11.25hrs CET tomorrow (Friday) morning. Pole Position or qualifying for Freestyle takes centre stage at 17.00hrs.
There will be two competitive heats on Saturday and Sunday. After further free practice at 12.25hrs, Moto 1 or heat 1 starts at 16.30hrs, with the timetable for a second practice session and Moto 2 or heat 2 being repeated at the same times on Sunday.
2018 UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship calendar
Grand Prix of Italy, Gallipoli May 25-27
Grand Prix of Mediterranean, Olbia June 1-3
Grand Prix Nansha, China September 14-16
Grand Prix of Shanghai, China September 21-23
Grand Prix of Dubai, UAE November 15-17
Grand Prix of Sharjah, UAE December 11-14