Victory Team wins the 2017 UIM XCAT World Championship, while spectacular Race 2 goes to Victory 33. The XCAT Dubai Grand Prix and the season end here, looking forward to 2018.
The hopes of Australia break at lap 5. The race is like a knockout battle and only seven teams make it to the end, among 2-meter waves. The Italian duo of Fujairah Team is second, followed by Swecat Racing. In the National Day of the United Arab Emirates, the home team Victory has a lot to celebrate within the UIM XCAT World Championship. Their drivers Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali (boat 3) win the 2017 crown, while Gary Ballough and Ahmed al Hamli clinch the first spot in today’s race. But it’s not been easy at all, for neither of the crews.
XCAT Dubai, the race
The water west of Palm Jumeirah presented a substantial swell and waves up to two meters since the morning, so the course was modified and the long laps canceled. At the start, Al Wasl and Swecat engaged Victory 33 in a battle for the lead, with several overtakes and wake-crossings, all while jumping in the air at every other wave. In the back, Team Australia (Brett Luhrmann – Pål Virik Nilsen) from P8 had to find any possible way to catch up on Victory 3 (fourth on the grid) and overtake them, as a one-point gap to the opponents left no other choice. But a sudden failure at lap 5 put out all their hopes, even more disappointing as two days ago they were still the championship leaders. From that moment the Dubai Team needed just to finish the race safely, and they made it.
Meanwhile, in a sort of knockout tournament, Al Wasl was forced to retire, as were Caccia Engineering, Gasbeton and 222 Offshore. Behind Victory 33 and Swecat were Abu Dhabi and Fujairah Team. But beside the indisputable skills of all the drivers, the latter had a better setup, so a breathtaking recovery took the Italian duo up to third. And, were this not enough, they closed the gap on Swecat, finally being able to overtake them with one lap to go, and close the race on the second stage of the podium.
A solid performance came also from the Russian duo of New Star Racing, with the best result of the season (5th) and from the Kuwaiti team Raheeb, who closed 7th on the shortest boat of them all, which means struggling more in rough water.
Victory 3 closed in P6, but their satisfaction is in winning the 2017 World Championship after a battle which lasted until the last race. Team Australia feel the bitter taste of having lost the leadership and the title in one weekend, but with the pride of having been able to fight and almost beat the team who won the XCAT titles five years in a row.
Salem al Adidi is speechless: “I don’t know what to say, I haven’t realized it already. This is my first title. Probably I will fully understand it in some days”. It is then his buddy to say more: “Yesterday we won the pole position overall ranking, today the world title. This means on one hand that we are the fastest, on the other that we can fight until the end”.
Serafino Barlesi, behind a genuine smile, is proud to underline some facts: “We missed the moment of the start, so at the first buoy we were last. That’s where our recovery started. The key was to administer, not to push too much. In these conditions it pays back. So in the end we were able to overtake even boats which normally perform very good in rough sea”.
Erik Stark explains that “It’s not dangerous to race with these waves, but sure it’s tiring: the boat was never going straight, because of the jumps and the waves, so it was a constant struggle. I can’t say my body is 100% now…but it was fun”.
Now the Championship goes for the winter break, but the UIM (World Powerboating Federation, and XCAT promoter) and the organizers are already working on next year’s calendar. UIM President Raffaele Chiulli says “2018 will be even better, we will move further from China and UAE to exciting new venues. But for the moment, after an amazing season, let me say thanks to all the organizers, the UIM officials, and especially pilots and teams for building such a spectacular sport show”.
XCAT Dubai: Al Wasl wins race 1, Team Australia flips over. The world championship is open
A perfect race takes Al Wasl to victory in the Dubai Grand Prix. The flipover of Australia makes the road to the title extremely hard.
One month after their win in China, the Dubai duo of Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi came back to the first step of the podium today in Dubai, for the fourth stage and sisxth race of the UIM XCAT World Championship. The Al Wasl drivers started third, behind the two boats from Victory Team, but they pushed hard until the end and the long-laps strategy helped them to overtake the opponent and finish on top. Behind them after a bad start, the spotlight was on Victory 3, Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali, runner-ups in the overall championship and comfortably third, but a superb comeback from Swecat (Erik Stark and Mikael Bengtsson) took the Swedes on the podium for the second time this season and relegated the Emirati crew to the fourth spot.
In the back, the 15 laps of the race – on almost flat water – saw many overtakes and change of positions, with Fujairah Team of Serafino Barlesi and Alessandro Barone being the “best of the rest” closing in P5. Sixth place today closes the door to team Abu Dhabi‘s ambition for the title, while the Russian crew of New Star Racing are surely glad of their seventh spot, as their hard work to improve the boat and the overall performance is starting to pay back.
The big news of the day, though, happened in the qualifying sessions before the race, when Team Australia suddenly flipped over during a turn. Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen exited unharmed, but the same can’t be said of their ambition to winning the 2017 crown: a break of the starboard engine mount made them lose control of the boat and could be the deciding factor of the championship. As allowed by the UIM rules, a crew can change their boat once in a season, so they found an agreement with Lady Spain and stepped into the cockpit of the Spanish boat, with barely the time to stick their 8 number on the sides. This implied starting in last position and especially driving a boat with a different setup. At the end of the day, their eighth position in the race means not losing too much ground to Victory 3 and taking them to an amazing battle tomorrow, when Race 2 will close a thrilling season and crown the 2017 UIM XCAT World Champions.
Arif al Zaffein is extremely happy for the win: “We had a good start, but especially we pushed to the limit for the entire race. The choice of the right time for the long laps, helped by our team manager on the radio, did the rest. But this success couldn’t be possible without my ‘brother’ (Nadir bin Hendi). You can’t say Arif without Nadir, and you can’t say Nadir without Arif”.
But tomorrow all the attention will be on Brett Luhrmann – Pål Virik Nilsen on one side, and Salem al Adidi – Eisa al Ali on the other, as the Aussies trail the Dubai opponents by one single point, but starting the race from the back. The battle for the title is on until the last chequered flag.