Weihai, October 21 2017. 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 of Rashed al Tayer and Majed al Masoori third. To complete their amazing result, they did the fastest lap in the race (2.31,435) 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 (Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali) 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, with a remarkable time of 2.27,061, 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 60 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 the 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.
An enthusiastic Pål Virik Nilsen tells us how they built their victory: “It was mainly three factors: a perfect start, where we could cope with the swell, a balanced first turn, keeping opponents in control and not losing much speed, and a spot-on strategy which allowed us to stay in the the front. But then, we went on pushing all the time up to the very limit of the boat in these conditions. Tomorrow will be another story, because the conditions could change and maybe we won’t make to have such a good start”.
Giovanni Carpitella explains the difference between pole and race: “Our boat is new, so everyday we try something different. We got the wrong setup for the qualifying, but then we changed everything for the race and it payed back. We realized also that this boat needs to be driven differently than we were used to, and Darren found the key. But there’s still space for improvements”.
“We wanted to keep the second position”, comments Rashed al Tayer, “but we couldn’t as number 10 (Weihai China) had a good strategy and was faster. Still, we’re very happy to score these points because now we are leading the ranking”.
And it is definitely a thrilling situation when looking at the overall ranking after three races: Abu Dhabi Victory Team is now first with 86 points, with Victory Team one behind and Team Australia trailing the leaders by just three points.
Tomorrow we will see how Race 2 will shuffle again the positions within such a close pack.
An official practice session is scheduled at 12:30 (6:30am CET) with the race at 15:30 (9:30am CET).