Team Abu Dhabi are on top of the powerboat racing world after a superb victory in the the 24 Hours of Rouen and have quickly set their sights on more championship titles.
Reigning Formula 1 individual champion Shaun Torrente combined with Emiratis Rashed Al Qemzi and Rashed Al Tayer and Italian Tullio Abbate to take Team Abu Dhabi 35 to an overwhelming win in the spectacular endurance race in Northern France.
Adding to the celebrations at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, the all-Emirati line-up of Faleh Al Mansoori, Rashed Al Remeithi, Majed Al Mansoori and Mohamed Al Mehairbi, contesting the event mainly to gain experience, took Team Abu Dhabi 36 to a superb third place.
A jubilant Torrente, who partnered Thani Al Qemzi to the team title in last year’s UIM F1H2O World Championship, said: “We have the best team in the world, the best managers in the world and the best country in the world, so we win.
“I just want to thank my fellow drivers and the entire team and management for doing an amazing job. Both boats did really well and it’s another championship for Abu Dhabi.
“Now I’m looking to the Formula One in Portugal in two weeks’ time. We’ll be pushing hard as always and aiming to start the season with a win.”
With the UIM World Endurance Championship now to be decided in Augustow, Poland, in July, Al Mansoori said: “We’re very happy that the team took first and third places here. It was a very good all round performance. Taking these points into the next round gives us a great chance to win the championship.”
It was a masterful tactical performance which carried Team Abu Dhabi 35 to their victory in Rouen watched by tens of thousands of spectators lining the banks of the River Sein.
They produced a stirring fightback towards the end of the initial 15-hour race session on Wednesday after a refuelling issue followed by an overheating problem had taken away their lead.
They eventually surged clear to complete a remarkable 836 laps of the 3.6km river course, 65 more than the French runners up B.R.T.
Next up for Team Abu Dhabi is the second round of this year’s UIM F1H2O World Championship in Portimao, Portugal, from May 17-19 where Torrente and Thani Al Qemzi will be looking for a season-opening win after round one in Saudi Arabia was cancelled out by storms.
Team Abu Dhabi again deprived Marit Stromoy of Emirates Racing Team of pole position in a dramatic finale to the BRM Qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on Friday afternoon.
In doing so, pole-winning Erik Stark also claimed the 2019 UIM Pole Position Championship title.
With the Norwegian sitting pretty at the top of the timing board – as she had done in India last month before being deprived of pole by Shaun Torrente – it was Stark’s turn to upset the applecart on this occasion and give his title hopes a major boost with a stunning final qualifying lap of 42.81sec.
The lead changed hands several times in a thrilling six-boat Q3 shoot-out that eventually saw Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi qualify in third position and Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson and Erik Edin delivering impressive performances to qualify in fourth and fifth.
Championship leader Torrente had been first on the water in not ideal conditions and the American settled for sixth place with the start of Saturday’s race now taking on even greater significance.
A delighted Stark said: “I will enjoy this moment now and the podium and then, in 30 minutes, we start the work for tomorrow.
“It’s hot, it’s going to be a long race and it’s going to be tough. I didn’t actually do a perfect lap, but it was enough. It was amazing.
“I have been in Abu Dhabi since India. I knew if I had fun out there I would do well. All race winners this year have been from pole, so I knew the importance of the qualifying.”
Team Abu Dhabi manager Guido Cappeliini added: “It’s an incredible end of this season. The drivers now are very close, especially our three drivers. There is a big pressure for this race and the next one.
“Fortunately, Thani now has a very good chance for tomorrow. Normally he makes a very good start, all the season. Maybe all our three boats can push hard and we can get three boats on the podium.
“Shaun is in sixth and now it depends on the start. It is very possible that we can get three boats in the top three positions after the second buoy.
“Marit has done an incredible job. I am very happy for this girl. She has been unbelievable now and done a very good job at the last two races. It is fantastic because the level of the World Championship is very high.”
Three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team failed to make it through Q1 and will start the race from 13th.
“We had a problem since India, no power, a problem with the engine,” said the Frenchman.
Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Hameli barrel-rolled out of Q2 after a high-speed coming together with Chiappe’s team-mate Peter Morin but emerged unscathed from the impact.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed A -Mehairbi finished fifth in the first of the weekend’s two F4 Trophy races and now trails Germany’s Max Stilz by three points in the title race.
Frenchman Tom Chiappe eased to a comfortable victory over England’s Sam Whittle and their performances have lifted them into close contention for a late push for the title.
Victory Team’s Ahmed Al Fahim lived up to his potential with outright triumph in the second race of the F4 category during the Grand Prix of India, the fifth round of the 2018 UIM F1H2O World Championship, on Sunday.
Al Fahim, who was one of the few emirati talents given a break at the start of the season, finished the second race on the Krishna River to take maximum points and pull himself into contention for overall honours.
The race was always going to be an interesting one after Al Fahim claimed pole position with a fine lap of 53.61 seconds leaving England’s Sam Whittle in second and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammad Al Mehairbi in fifth.
Race one winner Rudolf Mihaldinecz did not start the qualifying session leaving the field open for the rest of the drivers.
Al Fahim led the way towards the first turn and completed the first lap 1.88 seconds off Whittle, but the yellow flag was raised almost immediately before action re-started on Lap 3.
Al Fahim began to pull away from Whittle with the seven surviving boats holding station through Lap 8 of 20 with the leader extending his advantage.
There were no changes to the running order after Lap 12 and Al Fahim managed to hold on to his lead to claim the win over Whittle by nearly five seconds.
Ahmed Al Hameli and Alex Carella, Al Fahim’s teammates, were not as fortunate with Al Hameli coming in eighth, while Carella did not even finish his race.
Action in the UIM F1 H2O World Championship reaches a conclusion with two races in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in December.