Without an official promoter in place this year, the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship has been placed on the back-burner, but the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) has stepped into the fray to keep the prestigious racing series out of the wilderness and the club will host a three-race, four-day UIM World Championship this week (November 21-25) off the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.
Class 1 racing is one of the most famous power boating disciplines in the world and it was an obvious step for the ADIMSC to step into the breach, according to Salem Al-Romaithi, assistant general manager of the club on Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi.
“At the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club we support a wide range of water sporting activities. Class 1 is a vital one of those,” said Al-Romaithi. “Class 1 is one of the most important of all the UIM racing disciplines and has a tremendous pedigree and history. We were keen to run a UIM World Championship, while it is in a transition year without a promoter in place. Team Abu Dhabi will have two boats out on the water, as we did when we won the title last year. The goal, of course, is to retain the title and lay down the solid foundations for the sport to return to the regular calendar in 2017.”
Indeed, Team Abu Dhabi made history last season when the American duo of Gary Ballough and John Tomlinson broke the Victory Team’s stranglehold on Class 1 silverware to confirm a first ever world title for Team Abu Dhabi at the second race off the Breakwater last November.
Tomlinson returns to defend his crown this season alongside Faleh Al-Mansoori and the American and the Emirati face a serious threat from team-mates, Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori, and a selection of other entrants. These include multiple world champions, Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi, from the Victory Team and the new driver line-up of Italy’s Giovanni Carpitella and England’s Class 1 debutant Ian Blacker in Zabo Racing.
“The transition of the sport ahead of the appointment of a new promoter by the UIM means that Christian Zaborowski and Niclas Johansson were committed to other business projects and this has given an exciting opportunity for Ian to make his debut,” said Zabo Racing’s team manager Oivind Dreier Sivertsen.
Last season’s success for Team Abu Dhabi and their American-built MTi was the first non-Victory hull success for 12 seasons in Class 1 racing and it ended an eight-year winning streak for the Dubai-based team.
“Winning the title at the second race last year marked a great day for Abu Dhabi,” recalls Tomlinson, who had won the title himself back in 1997. “I remember, it was calmer than I thought it was going to be and it didn’t rough up. We got a really good run at the start, made the first corner and were able to run at the front for a couple of laps.
“Then, as we went around the turn on the outside leg, one engine went into guardian mode with a turbo over heat. We had no throttle and had to drop the rpm. We were able to put it back in gear, throttle up and get going again, but the focus was all about getting to the finish to secure that title.”
Team Abu Dhabi is sponsored by Etihad Airways and runs under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
UIM Class 1 racing in its present format dates back to 1992, although numerous offshore races had been held across the globe since the 1950s and Britain’s Steve Curtis won two titles himself in 1985 and 1987.
Italy’s Walter Ragazzi and Finland’s Jukka Mattila won that first Class 1 title in ’92, before Dubai’s Victory came into play the following year and fought a number of memorable battles with Spirit of Norway, Qatar and several Italian teams over the subsequent seasons. The most successful racer of all time is Victory Team’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen with 43 GP wins to Steve Curtis’s 42. Norway’s Bjorn Rune Gjelsten is third with 34 victories.
The format for the 2016 UIM World Championship will be three counting races over four days, split by a Kilo Run for a separate Trophy. After technical inspections tomorrow (Monday), pole position qualifying and races one, two and three will take place on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with the Kilo Run breaking up the World Championship action on Wednesday afternoon.
The racecourse will feature some action inside the Breakwater and part outside of Lulu Island on what could be a particularly tricky offshore section if the weather deteriorates.
Spectators are welcome and food and entertainment will be available throughout the racing days, adjacent to the pit area, on the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.
Timetable of events
Monday, November 21
09.00-14.00 Technical inspections
16.00-17.30 Official practice
Tuesday, November 22
10.30-11.30 Pole Position Race 1
16.00-17.00 UIM World Championship Race 1
17.30 Prize giving on podium
Wednesday, November 23
11.00-12.00 Free practice
16.00-17.00 Kilo Run Trophy
17.30 Prize giving on podium – Speed Run Trophy