Friday, 23 October: Dubai’s Victory Team has showed their hand and rolled the dice in a last ditch bid to try to successfully defend their world title, calling on the services of Darren Nicholson and Matteo Nicolini to run in their second boat at the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on 4-6 November.
Defending world champions Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi are on the back foot and will have to come from behind if they are to keep the team’s eight year championship-winning streak alive.
The duo who have won four world titles together sit in fourth spot after finishing fifth and second in Italy and are 18 points in arrears of the number one Abu Dhabi boat of Gary Ballough and John Tomlinson [who won both races], and with 40 points on offer need to win and hope their new teammates and others will take points away from Abu Dhabi – assuming neither suffer any technical mishaps!
Nicolini’s call up marks his first outing in the championship in three years Nicholson’s last in Abu Dhabi alongside and winning with Bin Hendi in 2013.
Nicolini is one of the most experienced throttle men out there and says he is looking forward to racing with the team that he enjoyed a huge rivalry with when racing for Team Qatar. The Italian has over 100 starts under his belt, winning five times with 28 podiums finishes, lifting the European title with Sheikh Hassan in 2005.
Nicholson made his debut in 2012 and boasts two wins and four podiums from just ten outings and in 2013 in Turkey with Ross Willaton became the first Aussies to win in Class 1 since Bill Barry-Cotter in 2002.
Team Abu Dhabi is also running a second boat and will have the home advantage, but Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi will be back in their favoured boat, have won more times in Abu Dhabi than any other pairing and know that they have formidable back-up in Nicholson and Nicolini.