Team Australia’s Blue Roo Aussie Brett Luhrmann and his Norwegian co-pilot Pål Virik-Nilsen had dominated last weekend’s two races in Weihai and the series leaders became embroiled in a thrilling tussle with a resurgent Arif Saif Al-Zafain (right) and Nadir Bin Hendi in (left) Al Wasl. Both teams opted to take their second long lap very late in the race and Al Wasl snatched the advantage heading into a final lap where they had to take their last long lap. The Dubai-based crew and defending XCAT champions managed to stay ahead of their rivals to claim the win by just over 10 seconds.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori suffered a set back to their chance of claiming the UIM XCAT World Championship title with a seventh-placed finish in race one of the Xiamen Grand Prix on China’s stunning Pacific Coast on Saturday.
Caccia Engineering’s Alfredo Amato and Daniele Martignoni started the race from pole, but were ordered to run a penalty lap for a turn buoy infringement and still managed to round off the podium places, but it came to light after the race that the Italians had not run the penalty lap and they were demoted to sixth after a 60-second penalty was imposed by race officials. This lifted Swecat Racing’s Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark into third place.
Victory Team’s Salem Al-Adidi and Eisa Al-Ali ran a penalty lap and remained in second position in the points’ standings, 11 behind the Blue Roo in the unofficial rankings, despite finishing fifth overall. Team Abu Dhabi retains third place in the championship with three races remaining.
Caccia Engineering led the Blue Roo and Victory Team through the first gate at the start of a crucial race for Team Abu Dhabi, which started from sixth position at gate two following the cancellation of Q2 and Q3 qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Victory Team managed to pass the pole sitter on the opening straight and into the first turn to take the lead. The Blue Roo held second from Caccia Engineering, Swecat Racing, Al Wasl and Team Abu Dhabi, although Swecat Racing moved into third as Al Wasl and Team Abu Dhabi took one long lap apiece in the race.
The race-leading Victory Team was under investigation for not staying in lane at the start, but maintained a slender lead from the Blue Roo and Swecat Racing. News filtered through from race control that Victory Team had indeed incurred a one-lap penalty, as Team Abu Dhabi ran a second long lap and began a climb back through the field.
The Blue Roo snatched the lead when Victory took the first of three long laps, and Miphere Xiamen moved up to third as rivals took long laps. Caccia Engineering was also under investigation for striking a turn buoy and was issued a one-lap penalty. The Blue Roo maintained the lead into lap eight, but still had to run two long laps in the closing stages of the race. Al Wasl managed to pass Swecat Racing and snatched third place as Victory Team and the Blue Roo both used lap eight for a long tour of the course. It meant that Al Wasl inherited second position and Swecat Racing held third behind the Blue Roo before slipping behind the Victory Team.
Team Abu Dhabi held eighth place on lap 10 and stood to benefit as other teams took their second long laps. Al Wasl kept the pressure on the Blue Roo into lap 11, but both boats needed to take one extra lap with just three seconds between them and three laps remaining. They both opted to use the last three laps for their second long lap as Victory slipped to fifth behind Caccia Engineering and Swecat Racing.
Al Wasl gained the lead when the Blue Roo took a very late long run, but the outcome came down to the 15th lap when Al Wasl was forced to take a long lap. Team Abu Dhabi gained one position to finish in seventh place but, in a nail-biting finish, Al Wasl took a 24-second lead over the Blue Roo into the long lap and managed to stay ahead of Team Australia to confirm the victory by the margin of just over 10 seconds.
Practice and Qualifying
Weihai-China was rebranded as Miphere Xiamen for the two races and Joakim Kumlin replaced Darren Nicholson alongside Giovanni Carpitella. Alfredo Amato stepped in alongside Daniele Martignoni to replace Diego Testa in Caccia Engineering.
The three championship leading boats, the Blue Roo, Victory Team and Team Abu Dhabi, dominated the first practice session with Luhrmann and Nilsen topping the times with 2min 30.652sec on their fourth lap. Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori ran for three laps with a best of 2min 32.927sec.
Caccia Engineering (who ran a fastest first lap of 2min 50.805sec) and the Blue Roo were the stars of the choppy Q1 qualifying session on Friday afternoon, but Al Wasl, New Star and Lady Spain failed to make the second qualifying stint along with a non-starting Raheeb. Team Abu Dhabi ran a 2min 54.489sec lap early in the session, finished sixth and just managed to reach Q2.
But race officials took the decision to abort Q2 and Q3 on safety grounds with the wind and waves strengthening. It meant that Caccia Engineering claimed pole position from the Blue Roo, with Team Abu Dhabi down in sixth place at the starting gate for race one.
Al Wasl bounced back from a disappointing Q3 session on Friday to set the fastest time in Saturday morning’s second practice session with a lap of 2min 18.620sec. Team Abu Dhabi ran for three laps in sixth place in misty conditions. Times were over half a minute faster than in the chopping conditions they experienced in Q1 on Friday.