The Victory Team lived up to their name and reputation by taking the first title of the 2016 UIM XCAT World Powerboating Series with a win at the Fujairah GP on Friday.
The defending Series champions, Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi, stormed to the front at the start start to finish to top the podium and the Series after round 1.
It was a dramatic race, however, as Team Australia (Brett Luhrmann and Paul Virik Nilsen) and Abu Dhabi Team 5 (Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) collided at the first turn and the Australians flipped their boat.
With both drivers safely back on land, the race was restarted with Victory Team once again storming to the front on the first lap.
“It was dream race, yes, but the challenge was very tough,” said Bin Hendi. Speaking about having to start the race a second time, he added: “We were leading already so mentally it upsets you – a bit up and down because you have to do the start again. You don’t know what’s going to happen and you predict a lot of things but luckily it went in our favour and as you saw, Victory boats are always very good at the start.”
Meanwhile, further back Gold Coast.Australia were steadily making their way up the field.
After a dismal start in eighth position, Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton made the decision to take their long laps early and the strategy paid off. The pair had worked their way up to fourth spot when the Fujairah Team (Serafino Barlesi and Alessandro Barone) experienced problems and lost speed, meaning the Australians moved up into the podium places. Swecat Racing (Mikael Bentsson and Erik Stark) who were then in second still had one more long lap to complete however – and when they tackled that, the Gold Coast boast made their move up into second, where they stayed until the finish.
“We had a really bad qualifying session so we were starting from eighth on the grid,” explained Gold Coast’s Barry-Cotter. “We had a lot of technical issues but we knew all
weekend that the boat had a lot of pace. It was just the technical issues holding us back.
“We got a really bad start so from there we were literally one of the last boats to come around the second corner so we made the call to take both the long laps straight away and we managed to have clear water. We honestly didn’t know until right at the end that we were still on for a podium, just because so many of the boats waited so long to take their long laps. So it was a lot of suspense for us. We were really aggressive. It’s a really great result for the team. They worked so hard to get the boat ready and I can’t thank them enough.”
Speaking about the new Mercury XCAT ROS 400 engines that have been introduced to the Series for the first time in this race, Barry-Cotter added: “Early in the weekend they had some gremlins but Mercury have been really good and the WPPA have been fantastic in tuning the engines to all the teams’ needs and they performed flawlessly this race and the boat is performing really well.”
Swecat eventually finished third with the Dubai combination of Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali grateful they weren’t the ones flipping their boat again – and finishing in fourth place.
“We didn’t know if we had the gap we needed to take the long lap but it was so close. I really enjoyed it. This is what racing should be like,” enthused Swecat’s Stark afterwards.
“These are really strong new engines so when you’re jumping they’re really pushing you. I really enjoyed it. For sure this is the future of XCAT,” he added.
Attention now moves to Dubai where the second round of the XCAT World Series will be contested from April 15-16.