Carella, Chiappe, Stark and Al-Hameli to decide UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy
BRM Qualifying gets underway on Khaled Lagoon on Thursday afternoon
SHARJAH (UAE): Wednesday, December 13: Competitors got their first taste of the 2.057km race course on Sharjah’s Khaled Lagoon during a free 90-minute practice session on Wednesday afternoon.
Team Abu Dhabi’s three-time World Champion Alex Carella needs a podium finish in Friday’s race to guarantee a fourth world title and he ran his DAC for 14 laps, carding a best of 48.51sec to slot into seventh place. Victory in the session went to a tying Norwegian Marit Strømøy and Carella’s arch rival Philippe Chiappe with a best tour of 47.70sec apiece. A mere 0.81 seconds separated the top seven drivers as the pressure and excitement begins to mount in advance of the weekend’s showdown between Carella and Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team for the World Championship.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed and Thani Al-Qemzi will play a vital supporting role this weekend and a top seven performance for either of the Emirati drivers will confirm the UIM Teams’ World Championship heads back to the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sport’s Club (ADIMSC) for the first time since 2015.
The duo ran for 16 and four laps and carded best times of 48.21sec and 49.95sec to slot into third and 11th positions. Thani Al-Qemzi was the first driver to post a sub 50-second lap of 49.95sec eight minutes into a session that was held in bright and breezy conditions. There were also some fast lap times for Chiappe’s team-mate Peter Morin, the Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente and Team Sweden’s Erik Stark.
After burning the midnight oil to repair their boats after various misdemeanours and technical issues in Abu Dhabi, Sami Selio, Matthew Palfreyman, Erik Edin and Bartek Marszalek were all authorised to race and Maverick Racing’s Cédric Deguisne was granted a reprieve after his card penalty last week. Twenty-one boats are, therefore, expected to line-up for the weekend’s race, but five missed out on the extra free practice session and Selio lost his cowling.
Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC. The racing team runs under the umbrella of the ADIMSC, board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi and team manager Guido Cappellini.
Race officials organised a pre-race press conference at the Sharjah Hilton on Wednesday morning. His Excellency Khalid Al-Midfa (Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority), Hassan Al-Zaabi (Sharjah International Marine Sports Club) and young aquabike racer Sultan Al-Hammadi were joined by H2O Racing’s Nicolo di San Germano and leading drivers, Alex Carella, Philippe Chiappe and Erik Stark.
Di San Germano spoke fondly about the 18-year history of an event that joined the calendar in 2000 and has seen six different winners in the last six years and eight in the last nine. “The 18 years of Sharjah has been a fantastic period of my life and in the history of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship,” said Di San Germano.
Carella, who has earned two wins and three podiums this season, said: “It is going to be a fantastic battle with Philippe. Looking at the points is a dangerous strategy. I just have to go out there and try and win the race. It will be a big fight until Friday night and me and my team need to be very concentrated.”
The first of the weekend’s championship titles to be decided will be the UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy. Carella goes into Thursday’s BRM Qualifying with a one-point advantage over Chiappe. Stark is a further four points adrift and Ahmed Al-Hameli trails the Italian by 10 points and still has a chance of winning the trophy.
F4-S practice and timed trials precede official F1 practice on Thursday morning and BRM qualifying takes place from 15.30hrs after the first of the two F4-S races (14.30hrs).
2017 Grand Prix of Sharjah – free practice times (Wednesday):
1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 47.70sec
1. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 47.70sec
3. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48.21sec
4. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 48.28sec
5. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 48.33sec
6. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 48.42sec
7. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48.51sec
8. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 49.39sec
9. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 49.58sec
10. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 49.70sec
11. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 49.95sec
12. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 50.22sec
13. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden 50.55sec
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 50.89sec
15. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 52.67sec
16. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 1min 01.59sec
Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team DNS
Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team DNS
Béranger Robert (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team DNS
Timetable of events
Thursday, December 14
09.00-09.20 F4 free practice
09.30-09.50 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.30 F4 race 1
15.30 BRM F1 qualifying
Friday, December 15
09.10-09.30 F4 free practice
09.40-10.00 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.30 F4 race 2
16.00 18th Grand Prix of Sharjah