The pressure will be on when Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi return to racing in Dubai this weekend.
The Victory Team duo already lead the Series going into the second round of the UIM XCAT World Series at Dubai International Marine Club from April 15-16, but there are always a few extra nerves making their presence felt when they’re in front of a home crowd.
“Always the pressure is on because everyone expects a lot from you there so we’ll hopefully perform to their expectations and be number one again,” said Bin Hendi, who together with Al Zaffain powered to a comfortable victory in the opening round of the 2016 season in Fujairah last weekend.
The pair are all too aware of the challenge they’re up against, however, with a strong showing from Gold Coast.Australia (Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton) and Swecat (Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark) in Fujairah where they finished second and third respectively, as well as Team Australia (Brett Luhrmann and Pal Virik Nilsen) before they unfortunately flipped their boat in the main race.
“As you could see in the pole position lap times last weekend – there was only one second difference so the competition is very tough,” said Bin Hendi. “We have to be very smart and clever because any mistake will drop your position down. So you have to always be 100 per cent when you sit in the cockpit and perform 100 per cent.”
Speaking about the defending Series champions, Victory Team, after the Fujairah race, Barry-Cotter reckoned: “Victory are so fast and they’re so good but we were only just behind them although they were probably just pulling off a bit towards the end there, saving their boat and engines.
“I think it’s going to come down to our qualifying in Dubai. We need to get a good qualifying order on the grid, start the race on the inside and get a good start. If we can do that, then I think we can at least put a lot of pressure on,” he added.
As for Swecat, it’s all about learning about the newly introduced, powerful XCAT Mercury ROS 400 engines. “We have more things to test after Fujairah. We have two pages of things we must test so we’re just going through everything and seeing if we can get a little bit more speed,” explained Stark.
Karien is a South African freelance sports journalist and communications / PR consultant.
She has worked as one of three chief writers on the official 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic daily programmes and magazines.