Abu Dhabi – The final round of the UIM XCAT World Series drew some interesting spectators with both F1’s Jenson Button and Volvo Ocean Race champion Ian Walker paying a visit to the Abu Dhabi venue on Wednesday afternoon.
While Walker, well accustomed to high speeds on water, tried his hand at driving one of the boats, Button decided to stay on his preferred dry land – chatting to Gold Coast Australia’s driver Tom Barry- Cotter about the boat’s hatch and safety features and the potential top speeds.
Button is, of course, in the UAE capital to take part in Sunday F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while Walker led the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team to Volvo Ocean Race glory in June this year.
The sailing champion, who hails from England, tried his hand at driving one of the Abu Dhabi boats taking part in Friday’s Abu Dhabi XCAT GP, alongside throttleman Rashed Al Qamzi.
“Wow, what a buzz!” he said afterwards. “I was in good hands for sure. The throttle is the hard bit and the steering is the easy bit. I was just trying not to crash it into the dock when we came back in.
“I wasn’t really sure how hard you can turn and at what point the boat would grip too much so I wound it up slowly and got more aggressive as I went on but I was a little bit nervous,” he admitted.
“Driving around with one boat was bad enough – I can’t imagine what it would be like with 14 of them and when you’re trying to race for real.
“I’d certainly like to try it again. I’ve got new-found respect for these guys and I’ll definitely come back and watch the race this weekend,” added Walker of the event which is free of charge for the general public.
Dubbed the greatest motorsport Series on water, the XCAT World Series truly is a spectacle of speed, with 14 teams of two taking each other on in two-engined carbon-fibre boats that tear around the course at speeds close to 200km per hour.
This weekend will be the sixth and final round of the Series with the top two teams currently separated by just one point after an intriguing season.
Earlier on Wednesday the T-Bone Station team of Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson recorded the fastest time of the day in the first official practice. Their fastest lap of the day was 2:31.090 while second fastest was Lady Spain (Jay Price and Shaun Torrente) in 2:31.561. The Dubai team of Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali were third fastest in 2:32.749.
Current Series leaders XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi) did not take the water for practice as they’re still putting the finishing touches to repairs to their boat after retiring from last weekend’s fifth round in Dubai.
In the special Match Race held in celebration of UAE National Sports Day, the spoils were shared by the Dubai and Lady Spain teams, with the presentation made by HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, advisor to the UAE president and chairman of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club.
The all-important race for Pole Position will take place on Thursday at the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club at 11am while the head-to-head Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run gets underway at 3.30pm.