Today it was the turn of the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship to be centre stage in the Abu Dhabi International Water Sports Festival.
Forty-eight riders from 13 countries took to the waters in front of Abu Dhabi’s spectacular corniche for the opening salvos in the final Grand Prix of the year, with the world titles in Runabout GP1 and Ski GP1 coming down to the wire, to be decided in tomorrow’s final two races of the season.
In the blue riband Runabout it is France versus Kuwait and a three way fight between the championship leader Cyrille Lemoine, Yousef Al Abdulrazzaq and Jeremy Perez, the trio separated by just 13 points.
In qualifying there were few surprises in the first 20 minute session with all the top riders easing into Q2, the notable absentees who failed to make the top ten cut were Italians Mattia Fracasso and Lorenzo Benaglia in eleventh and twelfth.
A close second session saw the top three riders split by less than 5/10 tenths but it is the Kuwaiti Al Abdulrazzaq who goes into tomorrow’s double-header with the advantage, his time of 1:24.05s set on his only flying lap putting him in pole position for race 1.
But it may have come at a cost after he was forced to pull out with an engine problem and there were concerned faces in the Kuwaiti camp as they started to work on his bike.
Championship leader Cyrille Lemoine will have to make up ground and starts from third place after his time of 1:24.51s was bettered in the closing stages by UAE rider Khalifa Belselah by 4/100ths, with Jeremy Perez facing an uphill task to keep his title hopes alive, starting from fifth.
It was a good session for the Middle East riders with five posting top ten times, Kuwait’s Mohamed Burbaye claiming fourth spot and the Qatari duo, Waleed Al Sharshani and Abdullah Fadel in seventh and tenth.
With 25 the maximum of riders eligible to take to the water in qualifying and in tomorrow’s race, a pre-qualifying session took place earlier in the day with 11 riders fighting for the available nine places.
Mohamed Burbaye and the Khalifa Belselah dominated the session, Burbaye topping the time sheets with 1:27.18seconds, just over a tenth quicker than Belselah, Qatar’s Waleed Al Sharshani going third quickest.
With France’s Sebastien Touyeras failing to start just one would be eliminated, the unfortunate Mohammed Moshen the rider failing to make the cut.
Portugal’s Tiago Sousa has the upper hand in Ski but leads by just two points from Italy’s Alberto Monti, and both were overshadowed in qualifying by France’s Mickael Poret who claimed his third pole position of the year, going quickest in 1:20.61s, with Sousa second.
Monti finds himself up against it and starts from fourth behind Abu Dhabi resident Ludo Caumont making his one and only appearance in the Championship.
Slovenia’s Pija Summer is the odds on favourite in the Ladies division and was again impressive, just failing to make it out of Q1 but again showing a handful of her male peers the way round, posting the sixth fastest time, her only rival Marta Sorretino starting from ninth place.
With the Freestyle World title already in the hands of Slovenia’s Rok Florjancic tomorrow is all about filling the podium places, the fight between Nac Florjancic and Serbia’s Aleksandar Petrovic, and to see if any of the six Middle East entries can cause an upset. Qualifying results:
1. 12 Y Al Abdulrazzaq (KWT) - 1:24.05s
2. 3 K Belselah (UAE) - 1:24.47s
3. 9 C Lemoine (FRA) - 1:24.51s
4. 20 M Burbaye (KWT) - 1:25.30s
5. 86 J Perez (FRA) - 1:27.30s
6. 7 W Al Sharshani (QAT) - 1:27.48s Ski GP1
1. 77 M Poret (FRA) - 1:20.61s
2. 82 T Sousa (PRT) - 1:22.16s
3. 6 L Caumont (FRA) – 1:22.91s
4. A Monti (ITA) - 1:25.75s
5. 4 S Ivancic (CRO) - dns Aquabike website