Third-placed Jonas Andersson prevents Team Abu Dhabi 1-2-3 in qualifying
Emirati Mohammed Al-Mehairbi wins F4 Trophy race one for Team Abu Dhabi
XIANGYANG (CHINA): Saturday, September 22: BRM qualifying was crucial to Team Abu Dhabi at this weekend’s Agile Grand Prix of Xiangyang on the Han River and the team’s racing trio of Shaun Torrente, Erik Stark and Thani Al-Qemzi qualified in pole, second and fourth positions for Sunday morning’s fourth round of the 2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship.
Running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC), a mere 0.53 seconds separated the trio of Team Abu Dhabi drivers in a fascinating Q3 shoot-out. Sweden’s Jonas Andersson agreed to run under the Team Amaravati banner and he was the only driver able to get amongst the Team Abu Dhabi drivers. Andersson won Q2 and was the last on the water for Q3. His second lap pushed Al-Qemzi down to fourth place, but failed to prevent Torrente grabbing pole and series leader Stark registering second place.
Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli qualified in fifth place and three-time World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team rounded off the top six. Alex Carella of the Victory Team qualified in eighth place, having missed out on Q3.
A delighted Torrente said: “This was an amazing job by the team as usual. Our boats were just unbelievable. I am really happy to be able to put the lap down when I needed to in those conditions that I used to struggle with. I worked really hard on those flat, perfect conditions to make a fast run and we go it. We almost had the 1-2-3. We were really close. Now we enjoy for a few minutes and then we focus for tomorrow and get back to work.”
Mohammed Al-Mehairbi followed up his pole position success with victory in the first of the F4 Trophy races and then finished second in race two behind Finland’s Alexander Lindholm. The haul of 35 championship points has put the Emirati just four behind Germany’s Max Stilz in the title race in the unofficial points’ standings.
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.
Stark headed Chiappe in the UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championship heading into the Han River showdown where a good qualifying position took on more importance than ever. It was imperative that the Team Abu Dhabi trio made it through to Q3 and the six-boat shoot-out in hot and humid racing conditions.
The 20 minutes of Q1 would eliminate the seven slowest drivers. Jonas Andersson set the early target of 57.05sec and Al-Qemzi moved into second with a 57.35sec run. The Emirati hit the top of the rankings with a 57.00sec lap and all three Team Abu Dhabi drivers safely negotiated a Q1 session where Simone Schuft, Thai rookie Sutthipan Sookbuangbon, Cédric Deguisne, double World Champion Sami Selio, Filip Roms, Bartek Marszalak and Duarte Benavente were eliminated.
A further six boats would fall by the wayside in the 15 minutes of Q2. Torrente hit the front early with a 56.26sec lap and Al-Qemzi settled into second with a run of 56.64sec. Chiappe booked his place in Q1 with a 56.51sec tour and Al-Qemzi ran even faster in the last five minutes with a 56.42sec lap to settle into fourth behind session winner Andersson (56.19sec), Torrente and Stark.
Veteran Francesco Cantando - racing in his record-breaking 174th Grand Prix - was eliminated along with Grant Trask, Peter Morin, four-time World Champion Alex Carella, Erik Edin and Marit Strømøy.
Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli was the first of the six Q3 runners to card a time. A veteran of 10 career pole positions aborted his first run and then posted the target of 56.06sec. Chiappe opened his account with a 56.36sec but that was as good as it got for the Frenchman and he carded a 56.52sec second run.
Al-Qemzi ran a first tour of 55.82sec on his 133rd career Grand Prix weekend to snatch the top spot and stormed through with a 55.04sec second run to strengthen his grip on pole. Team-mate Stark replied with a first run of 54.76sec to move to the front but he was not able to improve his time with a second run of 54.97sec.
That left the door open for Torrente to try and oust Stark from pole position and he didn’t disappoint with a stunning run of 54.51sec to snatch provisional pole and followed that up with a 55.16sec. All eyes were then on Andersson to see if he could stop the Team Abu Dhabi steam roller of the top three qualifying positions. The Swede opened his account with a 55.17sec run but a second run of 54.89sec ruined the possibility of a Team Abu Dhabi 1-2-3 and he qualified in third behind Torrente and Stark and in front of Al-Qemzi.
Teams had their first opportunity to sample the seven-pin, 2.23km course in a free practice session on Friday afternoon. Team Abu Dhabi dominated the session and Torrente came out on top with a fastest lap of 55.39sec. That was enough to beat team-mate Stark by 0.25 seconds. Al-Qemzi finished the session in fourth spot behind Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson, who was running in the colours of Team Amaravati for the first time. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon joined Maverick F1 Racing for the first time and struggled in a shortened session.
“Everything worked well and I think we have more to come, but I don’t know who has more,” said Stark. “There’s a bit of cat and mouse going on and, for sure, there is more to come from all of us.”
Marit Strømøy topped the times in the second practice session on Saturday morning with a lap of 55.30sec to deprive second-placed Torrente and third-placed Stark of the quickest time.
F4 Trophy – races 1 and 2
Six of the nine entrants took part in the first of the timed trials on Friday and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi claimed pole position for the first of two 20-minute races to be staged on Saturday. The Emirati finished the qualifying session 0.14 seconds in front of England’s Sam Whittle. Finnish rookie Alexander Lindholm won the free practice session and qualified in third place.
Al-Mehairbi followed up that pole position success and the quickest time in the morning’s practice by holding off Whittle to win the first of the day’s two races by 4.8 seconds with Germany’s Max Stilz of the Blaze Performance Team finishing third and rookie Lindholm pipping Emirates Racing’s Tom Chiappe to fourth place. Al-Mehairbi duly closed the gap on Stilz to just five points in the championship standings.
Lindholm started strongly in the second race and the Finn headed Al-Mehairbi, Stilz and Whittle through halfway and into the closing tours of the 15-lap race. The Finn eventually reached the chequered flag 10.34 seconds in front of Al-Mehairbi to snatch a win on his debut in the F4 Trophy. Stilz finished third and saw his series lead reduced to just four points.
Sunday’s action is restricted to the F1 boats. Practice is scheduled for 08.00hrs and the Grand Prix of Xiangyang will fire into life around 11.00hrs (07.00hrs UAE time).
2018 Agile Grand Prix of Xiangyang – BRM Qualifying times:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 54.51sec
2. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 54.76sec
3. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati 54.89sec
4. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 55.04sec
5. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 56.06sec
6. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 56.36sec
7. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 56.75sec
8. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 57.07sec
9. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 57.09sec
10. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati 57.27sec
11. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 57.59sec
12. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 57.76sec
13. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 57.95sec
14. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 58.16sec
15. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 58.27sec
16. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 59.07sec
17. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 59.98sec
18. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team 1min 04.61sec
19. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 1min 05.23sec
2018 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championship – standings after round 4:
1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 55pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42pts
3. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 40pts
4. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 36pts
5. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 24pts
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 16pts
7. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 14pts
8. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati 12pts
8. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 12pts
10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 9pts
11. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 7pts
12. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 5pts
2018 F4 Trophy – positions after race 6:
1. Max Stilz (DEU) Blaze Performance 78pts
2. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 74pts
3. Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 49pts
4. Sam Whittle (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 41pts
5. Ahmed Al-Fahim (UAE) Victory Team 38pts
6. Wu Bingchen (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 37pts
7. Pedro Fortuna (PRT) Team Sweden 35pts
8. Alexander Lindholm (FIN) Team Amaravati 29pts
9. Xavier Autard (FRA) Maverick Racing 21pts
10. Quentin Dailly (FRA) Maverick Racing 17pts
11. Joris Colleret (FRA) Maverick F1 Racing 7pts
12. Louise Vella (AUS) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
13. Ian Gonsalves (GUY) Maverick Racing 3pts
14. Rudolf Mihaldinecz (HUN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 2pts