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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