Just one point now separates the teams at the top of the UIM XCAT World Series Standings after an exhilarating third round at the Cascais GP on last Sunday.
Having won the opening round of the Series in February, the Abu Dhabi Team (Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) came into the race as Series leaders. But a bad start and then later engine trouble saw them slipping out of contention, eventually finishing in fifth spot while last year’s winners, XDubai, produced a flawless performance to take the win.
The XDubai pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi proved untouchable as they led from the start, mastering the tricky conditions that saw the race committee changing the course just an hour before, and crossed the line first.
The real battle was going on behind them, however.
T-Bone Station (Giovanni Carpitella and Marco Pennesi) continued their bad run of luck so far this season. The Italian duo were in second spot for much of the race but a sudden loss of their power steering meant they had to abandon their chase as it was unsafe to continue.
Behind them the Yachts duo of Francois Pinelli and Saul Bubacco were engaged in a fierce battle with the Abu Dhabi Team for third spot. It was one they eventually won, with Abu Dhabi pushing just that little bit too hard and eventually succumbing to engine trouble, so slipping down the placings.
The Hoorsenbuhs team of Tomaso Polli and Matteo Nicolini made the most of the gap and pounced on third spot – their second podium finish of the season. With that, the Italian team have moved into third place overall in the Series.
XDubai’s Bin Hendi explained after the race, that taking top spot in the overall standings was their main priority. “We were looking forward to that. We were calculating a lot this afternoon and we said we wish we could become number one,” he explained.
“We had a good start. It was a bit rough at the start – but we got control of it and after we got past the first buoy we concentrated for three laps to push a bit and get the gap and then relax a bit.
“The changed course was definitely safer but coming out from the last buoy towards the chequered flag – that was the worst part. It was very bumpy so we were taking it easy because we were scared that something might break.”
Speaking about the 1-point lead they now have over the Abu Dhabi Team in the standings, Bin Hendi added: “The championship is still hanging out there and so we have to go all out for the next race and see what happens.”
The French Yachts duo were, meanwhile, ecstatic after their highest ever XCAT finish of second place. Pinelli said: “It was a very nice race, tough but we managed it very well. The key was not to get emotional and to keep calm.
“We had a challenge with Abu Dhabi but we realised they were risking too much. The sea was not constant. We came across walls of waves, even three in a row, 1.5m high, but this is the ocean after all.
“It’s a pity that we broke the good props for rough sea yesterday. We had to use longer ones today, but in the end we are extremely satisfied.”
XCAT racing now moves to another new venue – with Round 4 of the Series scheduled for Gold Coast, Australia from August 21-23. Then it’s on to Nice, France in October before the final two rounds take place in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) in November.