This week, 13-15 December, the Emirates-Dubai Duty Free and Skydive Dubai Grand Prix are set to take place and Victory’s Arif Al Zafeen and Mohammed Al Marri will line-up looking to close out the title race on their home waters at the Dubai International Marine Sports Club as Dubai celebrates 21 years of hosting the Class 1 World Championship after staging its first two Grand Prix in 1992.
Wins in Qatar, Gabon and Italy puts the defending and four-time Champion Al Zafeen and two-time Champion Al Marri 21-points clear of their Emirati rivals, Team Abu Dhabi, at the top of the World Championship standings on 95 points as they look to win a remarkable twelfth World title for the Dubai based Victory Team 20 years after entering and winning the Championship on their debut in 1993.
To secure the title in the penultimate Grand Prix of the year before the season finale in Abu Dhabi (19-21) the Dubai-duo, who completed the win-double in Dubai last year, must again win both races but need second placed Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori to trip up and finish off the podium in both.
2012 Italian Grand Prix - Victory Team - Raffaello Bastiani
That will be a tall order; Al Tayer and Mansoori are on top form and enjoying theirs and the team’s best season to date and have missed out on a podium finish only once in their five starts in 2012 and will be looking to pick-up their first win together – the team’s last win coming in 2010 in Abu Dhabi when Al Tayer paired with American, John Tomlinson.
Ten boats will line up on a slightly revised course running off the Mina Seyahi and inside the Palm Jumeirah, with two new outfits on the start line and two new drivers set to make their Class 1 debuts.
New Zealander Peter ‘muddy’ McGrath, who last raced in Class 1 in 2009, makes a return to the Championship following his success in the USA in November winning the Supercat World title, and teams-up with Australian Darren Nicholson in a Victory hull running Victory V12s.
Norway’s Bjorge ‘bj’ Jacobsen will lead out a second Norwegian entry, Subseapilot Racing, alongside countryman Yngve Bratland in the Outerlimits hull owned and debuted by Fendi Racing in 2011, but opting to run Mercury V8s.
For Spirit of Qatar’s two-boat attack the world title, barring a complete technical or otherwise meltdown by the two front-runners, looks to be beyond their reach. But despite not contesting all rounds this season, opting not to go to Gabon, they sit in third and fourth spots, picking up two Grands Prix and an Edox Pole Position win.
Sheikh Hassan and Steve Curtis, who also enjoyed the spoils of success in the USA winning the Superboat Unlimited title, sit 42-points adrift of the leaders and 21 shy of Team Abu Dhabi in third but hold a nine-point advantage over teammates Ali Al Neama and Matteo Nicolini.
They took their first win together in Class 1 in Doha earlier in the year, adding two third placed finishes in Doha and in Italy, where they also grabbed their first pole position of the season, and are in the hunt for the Middle East title and sit joint top with arch-rivals Victory.
Al Neama and Nicolini have proved to be a strong partnership since finishing on the podium in their debut outing together in Abu Dhabi in 2010, winning twice and taking five podiums and a win in qualifying from their 11 starts. They produced one of their best performances last time out to upstage their teammates with a brilliant flag-to-finish win in race 2 in Italy - their second in Cernobbio - and will be looking for more of the same this weekend.
Team LFFendi10 completes the top half of the points table and has been a different outfit since running out for the first time in their ex Championship winning Victory hull and switching to SCAM engines in Libreville, Gabon in July.
Luca Formilli Fendi and Giovanni Carpitella have shown that they can run at the front and are genuine podium challengers after finishing second in Gabon. They then went on to qualify in fourth in Italy and looked to be on track for a second podium finish before incurring a penalty lap for missing a turn-buoy, eventually finishing down in fifth place.
UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship - Raffaello Bastiani
Norwegian outfit Zabo Racing will be desperate to turn their fortunes around and will be targeting a repeat of the podium success they enjoyed in Dubai last year.
The team is well overdue a strong run out, as well as some luck, and with three races under their belts and the much needed time out on the water with their latest specification Mercury engine package, Ugur Isik and Christian Zaborowski may well find form and deliver strong performances in the UAE.
Another team looking to put it all together over a race weekend is DAC Racing and they will be hoping to mark Giampaolo Montavoci’s 100th Grand Prix appearance with a more than possible podium finish.
Team principal and driver Guido Cappellini has reworked the former Championship winning Tencara and their performances at times have shown that the boat can be very competitive and quick. But reliability has been their ‘Achilles heel’ and has cost them several podium opportunities.
If luck has deserted any team this year it is Team D’Alessio-SCAM who has suffered a catalogue of bad luck from season start and will be hoping for a trouble free run in Dubai.
A fire gutted the boat in the season-opener in Qatar, but the team managed to all but rebuild her in time to make the race start in Gabon where their new pairing of Gian Maria Gabbiani and Luca Nicolini picked up seven points in fifth place.
An all new look FA.RO ACCIAI rolled out in Italy, but last minute issues prevented the boat getting out onto the water until race 1 - albeit momentarily - with Gabbiani and Nicolini tipping it over at the first turn. Hopefully lady luck will be with them in the UAE.
First Practice takes place on Thursday from 11.30-13.00hrs (local) with official qualifying in the Edox Pole Position at 15.00hrs. A second practice session on Friday morning at 10.00hrs is followed by Race 1, the Emirates-Dubai Duty Free Dubai Grand Prix - 11 laps / 54.78Nm at 15.30hrs, with a final practice session on Saturday morning at 10.00hrs and Race 2, the Skydive Dubai Dubai Grand Prix – 14 laps / 68.37Nm at 15.30hrs.
World Championship - after round three:
1. 3 Victory Team - 95pts 2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 74pts 3. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 53pts 4. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 45pts 5. 10 LFF10 - 38pts 6. 91 Zabo-Isiklar - 22pts 7. 74 Spirit of Gabon-Poliform -9pts 8. 23 FA.RO ACCIAI - 7pts 9. 90 Welmax - 5pts
Middle East Championship - after round one:
1= 96 Spirit of Qatar - 32pts 1= 3 Victory - 32pts 3. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 30pts 4. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 9pts 5. 10 LFF10 - 7pts 6= 91 Zabo-Isiklar - 0pts 6= 74 Spirit of Gabon-Poliform - 0pts 6= 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 0pts 6= Welmax - 0pts
Edox Pole Position Championship - after round three:
1. 3 Victory Team - 55pts 2. 5 Team Abu Dhabi - 36pts 3. 96 Spirit of Qatar - 35pts 4. 95 Spirit of Qatar - 19pts 5. 90 Welmax - 16pts 6. 9 Welmax - 12pts 7. 10 LFF10 - 9 pts 8. 74 Spirit of Gabon-Poliform - 5pts 9. 91 Zabo-Isiklar - 4pts 10. 23 FA.RO. ACCIAI - 3pts Class 1 website