The Dubai-based Victory Team lived up to its name and reputation by winning the first race of the 2016 Union Internationale Motonautique XCAT World Series with a wire-to-wire victory at the Fujairah Grand Prix on Friday in the United Arab Emirates city.
The Victory Team’s Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi started the 2016 XCAT World Series season where it left off in 2015—with a victory. All photos courtesy XCAT World Series
The defending series champions, Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi stormed to the front in typical fashion and never let up on their way to the top spot on the podium. It was not a race without drama, however, as Team Australia’s Brett Luhrmann and Paul Virik Nilsen and Abu Dhabi Team 5’s Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori collided at the first turn and the Australians flipped their boat.
With both drivers safely back on land, the race was restarted with Victory Team storming to the front on the first lap.
“It was dream race, yes, but the challenge was very tough,” bin Hendi said, referring to the restart. “We were leading already so mentally it’s upsetting—it’s a bit up and down having to do the start again. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and you predict a lot of things, but luckily it went in our favor and as you saw, Victory boats are always very good at the start.”
The Gold Coast.Australia team built up a lot of confidence working its way back from eighth to second place in the season opener in Fujairah.
While the Victory Team led the pack, the Gold Coast.Australia team was steadily making its way through the field. After starting in the eighth position, Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton made the decision to take their long laps early and the strategy paid off.
The pair worked its way up to the fourth spot when the Fujairah Team of Serafino Barlesi and Alessandro Barone experienced problems and lost speed, which moved the Australians into third. From there, the Swecat Racing team of Mikael Bentsson and Erik Stark was within reach because it had another long lap to complete. So, when Swecat Racing tackled the long lap, the Gold Coast team made its move into second.
“We had a really bad qualifying session so we were starting from eighth on the grid,” explained Barry-Cotter. “We had a lot of technical issues but we knew all weekend that the boat had a lot of pace. It was just the technical issues holding us back.
“We got a bad start so from there we were literally one of the last boats to come around the second corner so we made the call to take both the long laps straight away and we managed to have clear water,” he continued. “We honestly didn’t know until right at the end that we were still on for a podium, just because so many of the boats waited so long to take their long laps. So it was a lot of suspense for us. It’s a great result for the team. Everyone worked so hard to get the boat ready and I can’t thank them enough.”
The Australia team of Brett Luhrmann and Paul Virik Nilsen flipped their boat in the first turn of the race on Friday.
Speaking about the new Mercury Racing XCAT ROS engines that made their series debut in Fujairah, Barry-Cotter added: “Early in the weekend they had some gremlins but Mercury and the WPPA have been fantastic in tuning the engines to all the teams’ needs.”
Swecat Racing eventually finished third, while the Dubai combination of Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali, who were grateful they weren’t the ones flipping their boat again, took fourth place. American racers Jay Price and Shaun Torrente finished seventh in the Lady Spain boat.
“We didn’t know if we had the gap we needed to take the long lap but it was so close,” Stark said. “I really enjoyed (the race). This is what racing should be like. These new engines are strong, so when you’re jumping they’re really pushing you. For sure this is the future of XCAT.”
Attention now moves to Dubai where the second round of the XCAT World Series will be contested next week (April 15-16).
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