Dubai’s Victory Team will be mounting their most serious challenge for a maiden F1 world title with a two-boat strategy when a total of 19 drivers take to the waters at this weekend’s (May 18-20) Grand Prix of Portimao in Portugal.
Several teams have made changes this season with four-time world champion Alex Carella joining Ahmed Al Hameli for the Victory Team, while the Poland’s Bartek Marszalek has teamed up with Norwegian Marit Strømøy in the Emirates Racing Team.
Three-time World Champion and last year’s Portugal race winner Philippe Chiappe will continue to head the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team, while last year’s race runner-up Sami Selio and Filip Roms will be hoping for a better fortune this year in their Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team.
Germany’s Mike Szymura has switched to the Maverick F1 operation, Erik Edin has replaced Erik Stark in Team Sweden alongside Jonas Andersson and German lady driver Simone Schuft has agreed to join Francesco Cantando in the Blaze F1 Team.
Flying the Victory Team flag will be star Al Hameli and four-time defending world champion Carella in the two blue boats.
After a trial run in 2015, Victory Team’s first full season in F1 racing was in 2016 with American Shaun Torrente – now with Team Abu Dhabi – ending runner-up on the drivers’ standings while the team also claimed a teams’ podium with third place with their 86 points.
Last season, Victory Team weathered a slow start to finish fourth with 58 points.
This year, Victory Team have made huge changes while using the off-season to ensure the use of cutting-edge technology while building their own F1 boats with a high-strength hull constructed from carbon fibre, Kevlar, synthetic fibre, Airex and Nomex.
The F1 boats are further powered by a 2.5-litre, two-stroke Mercury engine that pumps out 400hp at 9,500 rpm with the capacity to accelerate from 0-100 kph in just four seconds and the capability of reaching 220 kph flat out as they launch their first serious assault on a F1 world crown.
The supremely fit Ahmed Al Fahim will represent Victory Team in the UIM F4 Trophy that runs in conjunction with rounds of the UIM F1 H20 series and offers two 20-minute races per meeting.
A lot is being expected from the Victory Team’s latest recruits following the promise shown by him during earlier races and recent testing.
In 2017, Al Mansoori – now promoted to F2 racing – had finished ahead Jeremy Brisset of the F1 Atlantic Team and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al Muhairbi.
However, this year can turn out to be more exciting with the likes of Frenchman Tom Chiappe and British debutant Sam Whittle joining in alongside the Team Abu Dhabi duo of Rashid Al Rumaithi and Al Muhairbi.
After the opening round in Portimao, the boats will proceed to London (June 15-17), Evian in France (June 29 to July 1) and then on to China for two rounds – Harbin (August 24-26) and Liuzhou (September 29 to October 1) before heading to the UAE for the last two rounds in Abu Dhabi (December 6-8) and Sharjah (December 12-14).
Meanwhile, officials at the Associação de Portimão have deliberately revised the racing timetable to reduce the risk of running in the customary afternoon winds and practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix will run late in the afternoons on each day. Gales played havoc with the original timetable in 2017.
After routine administration and scrutineering formalities, drivers will be permitted a two-hour extra free practice session from 17.00hrs (8 pm UAE) on Friday.
Official free practice will then start at 15.00hrs (6 pm UAE) on Saturday and precedes F4 free practice, timed trials and the first of the F4 races, starting at 17.10hrs (8.10 pm UAE).
F1 qualifying then takes centre-stage on the tricky river course from 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE). The timetable will be repeated on Sunday afternoon with F1 free practice preceding F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races, before the 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal roars into life at 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE).
The four-time world champion clocked a Games record one minute, 54 seconds flat to become the first male swimmer to win three consecutive Commonwealth gold medals in the same event.
“I wanted to get the three-peat,” said Le Clos, who shot to fame at the 2012 London Olympics by stunning Phelps in the 200m butterfly in one of the sport’s great upsets.
“No-one’s done the triple before so – Michael Phelps of Commonwealth,” added the pin-up with a wide smile, after beating Australian David Morgan by more than two-and-a-half seconds.
“It means a lot. Tonight was all about history – it was all business.”
Only Australian women Leisel Jones (100-200m breaststroke) and Petria Thomas (100m butterfly) have previously won three consecutive golds in the same event at the Commonwealth Games.
“I had to get in and get the job done and come out as unscathed as possible,” said Le Clos, following his gold in Friday’s 50m fly with a sparkling performance.
“That was my fastest ever 150m split and then I knew the race was over.”
Chad Le Clos @chadleclos on Friday became South Africa’s most successful Commonwealth Games athlete in history when he claimed his 13 th CWG medal overall. Le Clos won gold in the 50m butterfly to pass another swimmer Roland Schoeman who had won 12 medals. pic.twitter.com/uq0FfYTqG6
— TeamSouthAfrica (@TeamSA18) April 6, 2018
Le Clos, who is contesting seven events at the Games, returned to the pool to qualify second fastest for Sunday’s 100m freestyle final, ahead of Australia’s Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers.
“Tomorrow is going to be a humdinger,” predicted the South African. “I want to be in the mix of things and let’s see what happens.”
Le Clos arrived in Australia looking to become the most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history. He was six medals behind shooters Mick Gault and Philip Adams, who lead the way with 18.
Despite adding two gold to his haul, Le Clos will have to wait until Birmingham 2022 to overtake them after failing to medal in the 200m freestyle and the 4x100m free.
“Obviously I’m not going to get the six medals but I’d like to win as many golds as possible and get the fly treble,” said the 25-year-old, targeting yet another Games first.
“It was painful but I wanted to just make sure I was winning comfortably,” he added after his butterfly victory. “I’m as sore as you can be after six races in the space of 24 hours.”
Looking forward to Sunday’s final in the 100m free, swimming’s blue riband event, Le Clos promised: “They will feel me. I have nothing to lose. I may get fourth, I may get eighth – but I also might just win.”
England powerhouse Adam Peaty extended his remarkable 100 metres breaststroke winning streak as Chad le Clos claimed a historic third consecutive butterfly title at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Saturday.
Peaty, 23, the Olympic, world and European champion, completed a four-year unbeaten cycle in his signature event but was critical of his performance in the outdoor Gold Coast pool.
Elsewhere on the third night of swimming, Canada’s world record-holder Kylie Masse won a thrilling 100m backstroke final, Australia’s Cate Campbell clocked another record in winning the 50m free, South African Tatjana Schoenmaker captured the 200m breaststroke and Australia won the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay in a Games record.
Perfectionist Peaty found fault, saying he wasn’t in control of his race.
“I won but even though it’s a gold medal, four years undefeated and it completed the circle, I’m not happy with that performance because it’s not the best version of me,” Peaty said.
— 7CommGames (@7CommGames) April 7, 2018
“It was the first time ever where I felt not in control of my race and I let the event get to me too much, thinking about the end result instead of the process. I feel it’s the pressure I add on myself.”
World record-holder Peaty’s time of 58.84secs was outside the Games record he set in the semi-finals.
The all-action Englishman, who shattered his own world record with 57.13sec in winning Olympic gold at Rio two years ago, remains unconquered in the 100m breaststroke since storming to gold at Glasgow four years ago.
Team-mate James Wilby, who won the 200m breaststroke gold on Thursday, finished strongly for second in 59.43secs, with South Africa’s former world record-holder Cameron van der Burgh third in 59.44secs.
FASTEST EVER 150
Elsewhere, South Africa’s four-time butterfly world champion Le Clos became the first man to win three consecutive gold medals in the same event at the Commonwealth Games with a storming victory in the 200 fly.
Le Clos swam a Games-record 1:54.00 for his second gold of the meet, his sixth career Commonwealth win and 14th medal overall.
Only Australians Leisel Jones (100/200m breaststroke) and Petria Thomas (100m butterfly) have won three consecutive golds in the same event at the Games.
Le Clos, who famously toppled American Olympic legend Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics, also won the gruelling event at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Glasgow.
“That was my fastest ever 150 split and then I knew the race was over,” said Le Clos, who later backed it up by beating Australia’s Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers in the 100m free semi-final.
“Obviously I’m not going to get the six medals but I’d like to win as many golds as possible and get the fly treble.”
Le Clos won the 50m fly on Friday, but his bid to win five more medals and become the all-time leading Games medallist fizzled out when he missed the podium in the 200m freestyle and the 4x100m free.
Campbell, meanwhile, swam the third-fastest time in history to win the 50m freestyle in a Games-record 23.78secs, edging out her sister Bronte and Canada’s Taylor Ruck who dead-heated for second.
“I’ve been really pleased with my racing so far and being able to put together fast races and improve from heats to semis to finals,” Campbell said.
It’s been a barnstorming meet for Campbell, anchoring her team to a world record in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
Canada’s world record-holder Masse out-touched Australian rival Emily Seebohm by three-hundredths of a second to win a pulsating 100m backstroke final in a Games-record 58.63secs.
“I knew she was going to be right there,” Masse said of her rivalry with Seebohm. “I had no idea how close she was at the end until I got out of the pool and I looked up at the times.”