Team Abu Dhabi’s racing trio of Erik Stark, Thani Al Qemzi and Shaun Torrente clinched an historic 1-2-3 finish at the 22nd Grand Prix of France at Evian-les-Baines on Sunday.
The sensational result enabled Stark to storm to the top of the points’ standings and move two clear of his experienced team-mate Al Qemzi.
The Emirati pushed the team newcomer hard, as both drivers survived two yellow flag stoppages in a thrilling race where defending world champion Alex Carella of the Victory Team was hospitalised with a leg injury after a 24th lap crash and Torrente overcame missing out on Q3 qualifying on Saturday to climb from seventh to the final place on the podium.
Sweden’s Erik Edin finished fourth, Frenchman Peter Morin was fifth and Jonas Andersson passed the chequered flag in sixth after starting at the rear of the field following an engine change.
Three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe finished three laps behind and slipped to fourth in the championship standings, as Team Abu Dhabi also took control of the Teams’ Championship.
The Team Abu Dhabi trio of Stark, Al Qemzi and Torrente had lined up in pole, third and seventh positions for the 42-lap race.
Stark came under pressure from Al Qemzi and then began to pull into a lead, as Torrente climbed to fifth position. Sami Selio suffered ongoing engine issues and an accident involving Filip Roms brought out the first yellow flag on lap seven.
Racing resumed on lap 12 and Stark held his advantage while Carella crashed out heavily on lap 24 and the race was yellow-flagged again. The Italian sustained a broken right tibia and was transferred to hospital for treatment.
The race resumed on lap 31 and Stark kept his cool to stay ahead of his team-mate as the Team Abu Dhabi trio held on to snatch a memorable 1-2-3, but there was disappointment for Francesco Cantando who stopped with mechanical issues on the last lap.
Torrente said: “This is a fantastic result for the team. It’s history with a 1-2-3 and we are 1-2-3 in the championship.
“I was really happy with my drive. Coming from behind, it was one of my better drives. I took my chances when I needed to without being overly aggressive. The boats were prepared so well. We had exactly the same set-ups on all three boats.”
Action in the UIM F1 H2O World Championship resumes in Xiangyang, China, from September 22-23.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Thani Al Qemzi head to England this weekend to take part in the new Grand Prix of London.
Race officials have devised a course on the River Thames and the Emirati duo will be hoping to build upon the tremendous start to a season that saw Torrente and Al Qemzi claim first and second overall in last month’s Grand Prix of Portugal.
UIM F1 H2O World Championship leader Torrente said: “I’m really excited about this weekend. It’s going to be amazing to be in London, with all the history and the culture and the large fan base, but the racecourse is going to be very different for us drivers.”
Team Abu Dhabi faces familiar competition from the likes of three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team – who finished third in Portugal – and the Victory Team duo of defending world champion Alex Carella, formerly of Team Abu Dhabi, and his team-mate Ahmed Al Hameli.
Two-time World Champion Sami Selio will be hoping to bounce back from disappointment in Portugal and Sweden’s Erik Edin and Norway’s Marit Stromoy will be chasing much-needed championship points.
The weekend will also mark the UIM F1 H2O racing debut of Sweden’s Mette Bjerknaes in the Maverick F1 Team.
Team Abu Dhabi has entered Mohammed Al Mehairbi in the F4 Trophy category. Drivers will tackle two 20-minute races over the weekend in London.
Team Sweden’s Pedro Fortuna of Portugal holds a three-point lead over Frenchman Tom Chiappe of the Emirates Racing Team after the first two races on the Algarve. Al Mehairbi is third in the standings.
Team Abu Dhabi has entered Mohammed Al Mehairbi in the F4 Trophy category. Drivers will tackle two 20-minute races over the weekend in London. Team Sweden’s Pedro Fortuna of Portugal holds a three-point lead over Frenchman Tom Chiappe of the Emirates Racing Team after the first two races on the Algarve. Al Mehairbi holds third in the points’ standings.
The weekend’s timetable gets underway with scrutineering and administration on Friday morning. The flagship Grand Prix of London is scheduled for 15.00 on Sunday.
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).