Dubai’s Victory Team capped a successful trans-Atlantic debut with an overall podium finish as the 38th Annual Key West World Championships concluded in Florida on Monday.
Moving into the North American powerboating scene for the first time, Victory 33 with Salem Al Adidi and John Tomlinson on board took their third successive podium to conclude their campaign with their first-ever top-3 finish in North America.
Victory Team’s second boat with Eisa Al Ali and Steve Curtis on board rolled over and flipped on Turn 1 of the fourth lap to bring a premature end to their American campaign.
The two Victory Team boats had created quite a stir in the penultimate race on Friday by snatching the top two positions to throw the chase for overall honours wide open.
But, on Monday it was a totally different situation with front-runners Team CRC and Wake Effects rebounding in strong fashion.
Ron and Jeff Harris (Wake Effects) took the checkered flag to be crowned world champions after finishing with a three-race total of 883 points, nipping Team CRC in second place by just half a point, while Victory 33 followed in third overall with 812 points.
“This is the world of powerboat racing. It is tough out there and for us to come here and land with an overall placing is a huge motivation,” said Huraiz Bin Huraiz, chairman of board of directors at Victory Team after the race.
“We have done some good ground work in our first year in North America and I am sure we can build on this performance in due course.
“We have made a start into a new territory and that is the important part of our team synergy. It is now just a matter of time when we build up on this success.”
Team Abu Dhabi 4’s Shaun Torrente and Faleh Al-Mansoori overtook the Dubai Police crew of Nadir Bin Hendi and Arif Saif Al-Zafeen to seal a convincing victory at the Hangzhou Grand Prix on Saturday.
After a stunning performance in Shanghai last week, the men from the capital duly tied with their Emirati rivals in the UIM XCAT World Championship title race ahead of the second of the Hangzhou races on Sunday morning.
The 222 Offshore crew of Italy’s Giovanni Carpitella and Australia’s Darren Nicholson delivered a solid performance to finish in second position, while Team Australia’s Blue Roo crew of crew of Pal-Virik Nilsen and Jan Trygve Braaten were third.
But it was bad news for Dubai Police who limped home in sixth after seeing a commanding series lead evaporate in the third of six Chinese XCAT races in three successive weekends.
Torrente said: “Abu Dhabi gives us the best boat and this is a fantastic result for us. Now we are tied for the lead in the championship after this race result. Now we have a big chance to win the championship.”
Al-Sayed added: We are feeling very positive about the remaining races. It is important for us to maintain our momentum for the championship. I am very happy with the way the team is working but we must continue to push and increase the pressure on our rivals.”
Team Abu Dhabi 4 and 5 lined up in second and fifth positions respectively for the start of the opening 17-lap race but it was a disappointing afternoon for rivals Swecat Racing, who were sidelined before the start due to mechanical issues.
The Abu Dhabi side made a solid start and applied the pressure on Dubai Police from the outset. Torrente and Faleh Al-Mansoori managed to hit the front and were followed through the opening turns by 222 Offshore and the Blue Roo, as Dubai Police slipped to fourth ahead of Team Abu Dhabi 5.
Over the subsequent number of laps there were minor changes to the running order and Team Abu Dhabi 4 continued to lead from 222 Offshore, although the Blue Roo passed Dubai Police to snatch third and Dubai Police then slipped down into sixth.
Team Abu Dhabi 4 held on to claim the win from 222 Offshore and the Blue Roo, but sixth for Dubai Police dented their title challenge.
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.