History repeats itself, but not all the times. With the championship started just one week ago in Zhengzhou, China, and two wins by Victory team in both the races held there, everybody thought it would have been the same old matter also this year.
But this week the two races in Weihai tell a completely different story: two wins by Team Australia, and their boat to lead the pack in the championship. A weekend full of emotions and twists, as you can read in the report of both racing days by our correspondent Emanuele Ferraris di Celle.
October 21, pole position and race one
A stunning performance. Nothing else to say about the achievement from Australia Team today, when Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen took the pole position first, then won Race One of Weihai Grand Prix in China, second stage of the UIM XCAT World Championship. The Australia/Norway duo finished over one minute before the second, “Weihai China” piloted by Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson, with Team Abu Dhabi third. To complete their amazing result, they did the fastest lap in the race and held the first position during the whole competition. In motor racing, that is called Grand Chelem or Grand Slam.
With the pole position split into three sessions and the slowest of each being knocked out, it was Team Australia, Victory Team and Team Abu Dhabi to get into Q3 and fight for the first spot. An amazing lap by Luhrmann and Virik Nilsen gave them the chance to start in front of all the opponents, over half a second faster than Victory and 1.5 seconds faster than Abu Dhabi.
The race saw the boats getting into three different gates before the first turn, according to the grid position: a perfect start for Australia on their “Blue Roo” boat meant they had to control the opponents and have the chance to race in clear water.
While the others all went for their long laps at the beginning, in order not to be disturbed by wakes and sprays from opponents, The leading duo could push to the maximum and decide to take long laps after they gained enough advantage to remain first. And so they did. But that wasn’t enough: still from P1, they went on pushing, also scoring the fastest lap, and were able to win the race with 70 seconds over “Weihai China”. Who, with Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson in the cockpit, stepped up from P6 to a great second place thanks to a perfect setup and an aggressive race by thee drivers.
Team Abu Dhabi had a bad first half but in the end they were able to clinch the third position, scoring important points for the championship in a day when a disappointing Victory got a penalty (an extra long lap) and finished sixth.
Other disappointing news today comes from the reigning champions Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi, on their new boat Al Wasl, with a P7 that doesn’t reflect their indisputable value in the cockpit.
Some satisfaction also from Swecat, and from the Italian Fujairah Team, respectively fourth and fifth.
October 22, race two
It’s another impressive day for Australia Team and their boat “The Blue Roo”, as Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen win also race two of the UIM XCAT World Championship Weihai Grand Prix. With the first place they got yesterday, they leap up to the top of the overall ranking.
Behind them it’s Victory Team, with Salem Al Adidi and Eisa al Ali to run a perfect race which takes them from the sixth spot on the grid up to second place. To complete the top three, it’s a comeback on the podium for the 2016 XCAT Champions Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi, on their new boat “Al Wasl”.
At the start, with slightly chopped sea and a rather strong wind from the land, the first gate was for “The Blue Roo”, “Weihai China” and Abu Dhabi, while Victory started in P6 behind Swecat Racing and Fujairah Team. But Al Adidi and Al Ali were in the right mood today, as their laps were among the fastest from the very beginning. Add to this a spin out from Swecat in front, and the perfect strategy from their team manager Mohammed al Marri which allowed them to race always in clear water, and Victory stepped up to third, starting a close battle with their former mates from “Al Wasl”. Still, Al Zaffein and Bin Hendi had to take their second and last long lap, and despite a massive series of fast chronos they couldn’t make it and ended third by just some seconds. A good performance nevertheless, as they gained no less than four positions.
Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson on “Weihai China”, after a solid Race 1 ended on the second step of the podium, had trouble today with the setup of the boat, which in the words of Carpitella was “as a kite in the wind”, meaning the difficulties they had in keeping it steady at high speed and in turns.
Abu Dhabi, first in the overall ranking after their third place yesterday, saw their leadership vanish in just 24 hours as they got a penalty for cutting a buoy today and finished fifth.
While Swecat is still struggling to fulfill their true potential, with another result in the middle of the pack, New Star Racing from Russia gain some 12 good points to state that they are on the right path to improve, two spots before the Kuwaiti team of Raheeb who are waiting for important parts to be delivered and mounted on their boat.
Major frustration is for the Italian Teams: while Fujairah Team finishes eight after the good P5 scored yesterday, Caccia Engineering can’t get the checkered flag as they literally lose one engine, with the mount broken and the motor sinking to the sea bottom.
Andrea Comello and Roberto Lo Piano, from Italy on the Iberian boat “Lady Spain”, take six well deserved points after a 48-hour work to replace their engines, broken in Friday’s flipover.
Now it’s time to pack everything and move again, with the UIM XCAT World Championship to be hosted in the Southern-Chinese city of Xiamen already next weekend.