Weihai, Friday October 20. Everything is set up for the second stage of the UIM XCAT World Championship. Today the boats went in the water for the first time in Weihai, China, and the first news is about a crash, fortunately with no harm for the drivers. As for the times, a big surprise came from the boat which is actually last in the overall ranking.
The race course, on the Yellow Sea, is a combination of tight turns and long straights, with the main leg – measuring 1.1 Nm or 2 kilometers – allowing the Cats to reach speeds in excess of 200 km/h. The thrill came after 30 minutes from the beginning of the official practice session, when boat 46 “Lady Spain” flipped over at the end of that very straight. The drivers Andrea Comello and Roberto Lo Piano are OK, they came out of the escape hatch immediately and the safety rescue arrived in a matter of seconds. So, with both pilots unharmed, the issue is now trying and fix the boat.
Meanwhile, boat number 7 “Al Wasl” saw the comeback of Nadir bin Hendi along with his long time buddy Arif al Zaffein (the duo are the XCAT reigning champions and have won the Series in the last four years). While the former just joined the team, the latter competed in the first two races of the season, last week in Zhengzhou, but had to retire in race 1 and couldn’t do better than P9 in race 2, finding himself at the bottom of the ranking. But the two of them together seem to be still the best, as they stopped the chrono today in first position, over one second faster than the second boat, “The Blue Roo” of Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen.
Third spot today is for Victory Team (Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali), followed close by “Weihai China” of Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson, the boat which carries the name of the host city.
Andrea Comello says: “At the moment of turning we suddenly lost grip in the back, the boat spun and flipped over. Luckily we are fine, but we still have to evaluate the damages on the boat. The cowlings are broken, but the main issue is if water got into the engines. We have to work hard, probably all night, in order to make sure we can be in the water tomorrow for pole position”.
Nadir bin Hendi, who arrived to China right this morning, gives all the credit to his team: “I can’t take the merit of this result, it’s a team work. They are all amazing. Of course having raced and won so many times with Arif did help. We are two drivers but one brain. I hope tomorrow we can be competitive, and on this race course I think it will be an interesting battle with many other teams”.
Tomorrow it will be time for the Pole Position (12:00 local time, 6am CET) and then Race 1 (15:30 local time, 9:30 CET). Big crowds of passionate people are expected, as the Chinese public has started to get familiar with the XCAT show and to enjoy being part of such adrenaline events.