Considering that the whole powerboating is suffering a deep crisis, it is a big achievement to have 11 boats (14 are registered) racing the 2017 XCAT World Championship.
Also because it remains, for its formula and for the show it offers, one of the most spectacular series in powerboating today. Let us then report the chronicles of our correspondent from China Emanuele Ferraris in Celle, who attended the first two races in Zhengzhou on the water of Dragon Lake (Long Hu in local language).
2017 XCAT World Championship – race one
It’s been a day full of action, with confirmations and surprises, for the UIM XCAT World Championship. The drivers have had the first chance to confront their opponents in Zhengzhou, China, with the first pole position of the season and especially the first race.
The first response says that Victory Team is once again the one to beat: their “junior team” from last year, the Emirati duo Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali from Dubai, have been promoted for 2017 and didn’t fall short of expectations, conquering the pole and winning race one.
Behind them, another confirmation comes from their neighbors from Abu Dhabi, Rashed al Tayer and Majed al Masoori, who got a strong second place making clear what their ambitions are for the season.
The third place is for the Italian Team Al&Al – Caccia Engineering, with Diego Testa and Daniele Martignoni, whose strategy coordinated by team manager Alfredo Amato made them gain a position after P4 in qualifying. If their efforts and the experience of the team could lead to such a result, for sure they didn’t expect to debut in 2017 with a podium finish in the very first race.
Some disappointment comes from Team Australia: Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen on their boat “The Blue Roo” fought for the pole position until the last minute, but in the end a trim failure on one engine pushed them back to a final fourth spot in the race.
And for sure the biggest disappointment is for the reigning Champion Arif al Zaffein, four World Titles in XCAT, who along with his buddy Scott Williams couldn’t finish the race due to an engine overheat on their new boat “Al Wasl”.
One of the most positive aspects of this day of racing though comes from the hosting venue: the City of Zhengzhou set up a great context, in which the XCats had the chance to express all their potential made of competition and entertainment. And the people themselves were the key factor: coming over in the tens of thousands, they shown an unprecedented level of passion and will to be part of the show.
2017 XCAT World Championship – race two
A foggy weather with high humidity covered the water of Dragon Lake in Zhengzhou, China, for the whole day. So, the second race of the season for the UIM XCAT World Championship has been characterized by poor visibility, both in terms of gloomy air and of moist on the boats’ windshields. But this wasn’t enough to stop Victory team from clinching a second win, after the one they conquered yesterday on the same circuit. Abu Dhabi is still there though, again in second place, while Team Australia recovers from yesterday’s disappointment finishing in P3.
The starting order was given by the results of race one, so Abu Dhabi was second, followed by Al&Al – Caccia Engineering. On such a narrow course, with no proper straights, all was on the strategies with long laps. Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali on Victory took advantage of the clear water in front of them and pushed to the maximum, waiting for Abu Dhabi’s Rashed al Tayer and Majed Al Masoori to take their first long lap, which happened on lap five. So, they could keep the first position and from that moment on it was just a matter of controlling the main opponents and decide the strategy according to their choices.
Behind the first two, a frantic series of twists, penalties and overtakes changed the spots several times, with a sort of free-for-all battle which awarded “The Blue Roo” of Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen, able to step on the podium that they missed by a bit yesterday.
Worth a mention is the fourth place of 222 Offshore with Giovanni Carpitella and Joakim Kumlin, the boat carrying on the sides the name of the city of ZhengZhou: from P7 at the start they ended fourth. An engine failure stopped Swecat racing with just four laps to go, while the overall ranking after two races is hard to the reigning world champion Arif al Zaffein, who after yesterday’s DNF had to take an extra lap today for hitting a buoy and finished ninth.
And if the bad weather didn’t stop the drivers from fighting mercilessly, it sure didn’t stop Chinese public either: once again the grandstands, the shores, the pits were full of enthusiastic people.
Now the XCats are being packed and shipped to Weihai, capital of the Chinese province of Shandong, where the next two races will be held in less than one week.