The prestigious XCAT World Championship returns to the international powerboat racing calendar for the first time since last November this weekend and is now running under the auspices of the UIM.
A four-race calendar has been devised with three back-to-back Chinese races in Zhengzhou (October 13-15), Weihei (October 20-22) and Xiamen (October 27-29) this month and a finale in Dubai at the start of December.
Team Abu Dhabi entered up to two boats when the series ran under the WPPA banner until the end of 2016 and the outfit running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) will be represented by the experienced Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori in Team Abu Dhabi 5 this season, with Faleh Al-Mansoori travelling to China as a reserve driver.
Last year, Team Abu Dhabi finished second at both their home round of the XCAT series in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai and third in Lugano, but mechanical woes cost them dearly in Fujairah.
This weekend’s Zhengzhou Grand Prix marks a welcome return to the calendar for offshore racing after the UIM Class 1 racing series failed to find a regular promoter and the UIM took control of XCAT racing and announced a four-race calendar for the last few weeks of the racing season.
The opening two races at Zhengzhou will be staged on Longhu Lake in the Zhengdong New District and will run under the control of Chinese promoter Baia Blù D’Oriente (BBDO) with the permission of the Chinese Motorboat Association (CMA).
Fourteen boats have been shipped to the People’s Republic and Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori can expect fierce competition from regular rivals including Dubai’s four-time XCAT champion Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and new British partner Scott Williams in a Victory-built XCAT, Australia’s Brett Luhrmann and Norway’s Pal-Virik Nilsen and rival teams from Italy, Sweden, Spain, Australia and the Middle East.
Salem Al-Adidi and Eisa Al-Ali were always on a competitive pace in Dubai 33 last year and are reported to be ready to challenge for honours in Victory 3 this year.
The Swedish pairing of Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark also featured well in Swecat Racing last season, although final driver line-ups will be published in Zhengzhou.
Salem Al-Remeithi, general manager of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) said:
XCAT racing is an important powerboat racing discipline and one that Team Abu Dhabi has supported for several years.
We are delighted that the series is now up and running again under the UIM. We hosted a race last November and are hopeful that Rashed and Majed can make a good start in Zhengzhou and set the team up to challenge for the championship.
Zhengzhou is a prefecture-level city, the provincial capital of the Henan Province in east-central China and lies on the southern bank of the Yellow River.
It is one of eight ancient capitals of China and has around 10 million inhabitants. It was the national capital of China during the Shang dynasty and is the second largest city in central China, with textiles, coal mining, agriculture and electricity production key factors in its rapid growth.
Boats will be checked at official scrutineering on Thursday and Friday (October 12-13) before crews are permitted to carry out their first practice session on the inshore course from 15.00hrs. Pole position qualifying takes centre stage from 10.30hrs on Saturday morning and the first of the two Zhengzhou Grand Prix fires into life at 15.30hrs (11.30hrs UAE time).
Further official practice will be permitted from 11.00hrs on Sunday morning and precedes the second Zhengzhou Grand Prix starting at 14.30hrs (10.30hrs UAE time).