Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Faleh Al Mansoori took a major step toward retaining their title in the Union Internationale Motonautique XCAT World Championship with a victory in a dramatic Dubai Grand Prix today.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Faleh Al Mansoori (below, right, click to enlarge) can win a second-straight XCAT world championship if they can win Saturday’s second race at the Dubai Grand Prix. Photo courtesy Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club
The defending champions in Abu Dhabi 4 won the first of this weekend’s two races by 20 seconds ahead of Australians Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton in Maritimo to regain the lead in the title race from the Dubai Police crew of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi, which finished in fourth. Third place went to Abu Dhabi 5 teammates Rashed Al Tayer and Majed Al Mansoori.
Torrente and Al Mansoori, who began the season with back-to-back victories in Italy, are hoping for a repeat of Friday’s feat in Dubai tomorrow to secure a second successive XCAT world crown. If the first race was any indication, Saturday’s second race promises to be a spectacular grand finale.
Abu Dhabi 4 had an early scare today when one engine stopped, but so did the race soon afterward when Russia’s Mikhail Kitashev and Dimitry Vandyshev in New Star Racing crashed spectacularly in tough conditions on the first lap. Kitashev and Vandyshev were immediately rescued and in good condition following the accident.
From the restart, Torrente and Al Mansoori had no more problems and finished first to go into the final day of the season holding a four-point championship lead over Barry-Cotter and Willaton, with Al Zaffain and Bin Hendi another two points adrift in third position.
Abu Dhabi 5, which sits in fourth overall, was at the center of some of the most exciting racing action as it went head-to-head with Maritimo for a succession of laps, finally being overtaken on the last lap after a superb battle. The Australian crew had earlier clinched the overall pole position world championship by topping qualifying ahead of the two Team Abu Dhabi boats, but the morning’s calm conditions had been replaced by wind and choppy waters by the time the race got underway.
“We had a problem at the start when one engine stopped, but after the accident, we restarted the engine and got off well into a good position,” a jubilant Al Mansoori said at the finish. “We had a good long lap strategy thanks to the radio man and the manager and that was very important.”
Torrente said that was the first time the team has had an engine problem like that.
“We’re going to check it now but we had a good restart and from there we just managed the race,” Torrente said. “It’s still really close in the championship and we’ll just go for the win tomorrow.”
In a bit of good news for the series, Victory Team returned to race in the season finale. After an absence of almost two years, the 2017 XCAT world champions fielded the No. 33 boat with drivers Eisa al Ali and Salem al Adidi. The team, which finished sixth on Friday, has to race as a wild card, which means they won’t be eligible for points.