Team Abu Dhabi created another piece of powerboat racing history by securing a second successive 1-2-3 race finish at the Agile Grand Prix of Xiangyang on the Han River on Sunday.
Pole sitter Shaun Torrente claimed his second win of the season and was followed to the chequered flag by team-mates Thani Al Qemzi and Erik Stark at the fourth round of the 2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship.
The result means that 40-year-old Al Qemzi now leads the drivers’ championship by a single point from Stark, with Torrente a further point behind.
Running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC), the trio were the class of the field and, once Al Qemzi passed Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson on the opening lap, the three drivers ran a professional and processional race to the finish.
Andersson secured fourth place, three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team earned valuable points for fifth and Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Hameli was sixth.
Team Abu Dhabi moved further ahead of their rivals in the UIM Teams’ Championship, while Frenchman Peter Morin earned the fastest lap of the race.
A triumphant Torrente said: “I had Erik on my side at the start and then Al Qemzi next to Jonas. The idea was to protect each other at the start and then whoever wins, wins.
“This is another amazing result for the team. They have done an amazing job. All the hard work that everyone has put in is starting to pay off. It really is a very exciting time and we are in a fantastic position now for a thrilling finish to the championship.”
Torrente led the way from Stark, Andersson and Al Qemzi at the start. The grid was whittled down to 17 following the premature retirements of Francesco Cantando and Simone Shuft in the morning’s practice session.
Warm conditions welcomed teams to the 10th Chinese venue to host a grand prix. Al Qemzi made a storming start and passed Andersson and Stark to snatch second, but Torrente began to edge clear and was three seconds ahead after two laps.
Torrente began to close in on the back-markers by lap four, as he and Al Qemzi continued to open up a gap on Stark and Andersson and a hard-chasing Chiappe.
The American carded the fastest lap of the race of 57.71sec and held a three second advantage over Al Qemzi after six laps. Stark was 11 seconds adrift.
The top 10 held station through as many laps and Torrente extended his advantage to six seconds into lap 15, but Portugal’s Duarte Benavente and double world champion Sami Selio were sidelined and Thailand’s Sutthipan Sookbuangbon struggled at the rear of the field on his race debut. Four-time world champion Alex Carella had been running in 12th but also withdrew his Victory Team boat.
Bartak Marszalak spun out of eighth place but Torrente maintained an outright lead over Al Qemzi after 22 laps. Grant Trask also withdrew soon afterwards with his own technical issues.
Torrente’s lead was down to three seconds with 12 laps to go, but the top six were running in procession and there were no late dramas for the American.
He eased his pace slightly and passed the chequered flag six seconds in front of Al Qemzi and stormed back into title contention, as Stark rounded off another historic 1-2-3 finish for Team Abu Dhabi and Al Qemzi moved to the top of the standings.
Action in the UIM F1 H20 World Championship resumes in Amaravati, India, between November 17-18.
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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.