Tuesday, 19 November, DOHA (Qatar): Team Qatar will open their bid to try to win their first UIM Nations Cup World Series in front of a partisan home crowd in Doha this week.
The inaugural UIM Nations Cup Qatar Grand Prix [20-22 November] is the first of two events in the Middle East and followed by the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 3-4 December, part of a week-long Water Sports Festival in the UAE capital city which starts on 28 November with the penultimate round of the UIM F1H2O World Championship.
Thirty-six year old Khalid Al Kuwari from Doha will lead out the Qatar Team and makes his third appearance in the event, helping the team to the runners-up position in Singapore in 2011 and in Khor Fakkan in the UAE last year.
Al Kuwari has a solid record in Nations Cup finishing third in the race in 2011, taking two top-five finishes in the revised two sprint race format last year.
Running in the second boat and making his Nations Cup debut is teammate Mohamad Al Obaidly, who last week competed in round three of the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship which also took place in Doha.
Team Qatar will face stiff opposition from 12 drivers representing six countries; Italy, Lebanon, Norway, Russia all make their first appearance in the series, with Saudi Arabia back for a second time and Team UAE bidding for their third title.
Nations Cup was devised by H2O Racing president Nicolò di San Germano with the emphasis on team participation and country success rather than individual driver success. It launched in Singapore’s magnificent Marina Bay in 2011 with the second outing for UIM Nations Cup Teams in Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah last year.
Spectacular close-quarter racing has become the hallmark of the series in its relatively short term, with Team UAE the success story to date, winning with Ahmed Al Hameli and Majed Al Mansoori in 2011 and backing that success with victory last year with Mansoori and Rashed Al Tayer.
Each National team is backed by its UIM sanctioned National Authority and runs two boats, with the option of having two to four drivers to shoulder practice, qualifying and racing responsibilities over the three days.
Drivers compete in identical stock boats using identical engines and propellers which are drawn by lottery at the start of each race weekend, with the overall winner of the UIM Nations Cup not the strongest individual driver but the National Team whose driver-combination amasses the most points from the match race and both sprint races.
The single-seater tunnel-hull catamarans are capable of impressive acceleration, high speeds and exceptional manoeuvrability. Each boat is approximately six metres in length, two metres wide, weighs 455kgs and powered by a 2.5litre, 225HP Mercury Optimax 200XS SST engine.
Today teams were assigned their boats at driver briefing and all drivers underwent a mandatory safety ‘dunk test’ to demonstrate their ability to be able get out from an upturned boat in the case of an accident, with the first of two practice sessions at 11.00hrs tomorrow.