Torrente and Al-Qemzi in winner-takes-all duel; third-placed Stark lurking to steal the spoils
Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi locked in four-way fight for F4 Trophy title
SHARJAH (UAE): Tuesday, December 11: Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente, Thani Al-Qemzi and Erik Stark will be locked in a three-way fight to decide the outcome of a pulsating UIM F1 H2O World Championship on Khalid Lagoon this weekend.
Torrente heads into Saturday’s final showdown with a three-point advantage over last weekend’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi winner Al-Qemzi, while engine issues last time out have pushed Stark down to third place and 12 points adrift the series leader.
If either Torrente or Al-Qemzi win the race on the revised course they will be World Champion for the first time. Should they falter and Stark finish second or higher, the Swede would be crowned World Champion. But the mathematical permutations continue: should another driver win, then Torrente would need to beat Al-Qemzi to win the championship and Al-Qemzi would need to finish four points in front of the American to reverse the scenario.
Al-Qemzi has an impressive record on Khalid Lagoon, however. The Emirati won here in 2006, 2008 and 2012 and has been on the podium five times in eight seasons. Torrente won here in 2016, when he finished as the series runner-up to Philippe Chiappe, and appears relaxed and composed ahead of the biggest race of his life.
A determined Al-Qemzi said: “I feel normal. I am ready for Sharjah. I win here three times before. I will try my best again. The start for me is no problem. I start behind on the last race and I managed to win. I will try and get the pole position and push. I will not take notice of any instructions. I want to win this race. Erik (Stark) has to push very hard to get some points. Don’t worry Shaun (Torrente), I have the secret for the start!”
Torrente added: “As a team we have achieved all of our goals, including winning the World Championships for Teams and Drivers. That said, my season has also exceeded my expectations. I have had three wins and three poles and I lead the Drivers’ Championship with one to go. Obviously I want to win the title but, if Thani wins it, I would be devastated if I didn’t win but to see him win would be good. He has done a great job as well.
“I guess it’s winner-take-all for me and Thani, but there are so many other scenarios. I love Sharjah. I come here with the mindset that when you get here all the cards have been played. It’s a one-race deal. You don’t have to worry about the next race. I can just race free and have a good time. I wanted a better finish in Abu Dhabi, but that’s the way it goes. Abu Dhabi was a big deal for me. In the past, when situations weren’t going my way, I would press and turn a rough day into a really bad day and get no points or crash and not finish. I realised when the motor didn’t fire off the beach, it wasn’t my day. I salvaged what I could without taking any risks, knowing we had one more to go.
“We all want pole position to give us the best shot at winning the race. I am going to try like hell to get that. You don’t get any points for pole position though. Erik went to bed last Friday night thinking he may be leading the World Championship tomorrow. Now he’s 12 points behind and in a worse position than before. Erik has the least to lose. He can just go for it. He’s in third anyway, but there other drivers with Marit and Sami who are doing really well. Most of the season’s work has been done, now we just need to finish off the job!”
Time will tell which one of the three Team Abu Dhabi drivers will take the host emirate’s motto of ‘Smile – You are in Sharjah’ to heart on Saturday afternoon.
Seventeen drivers are expected to line-up at the start of the season finale, with Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli still recuperating from his spectacular coming together with Peter Morin last weekend. That said, Marit Strømøy of the Emirates Racing Team has hit a rich vein of form - qualifying second for the last two races - and Morin was impressive in Abu Dhabi for the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team.
Finland’s double World Champion, Sami Selio, of the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team claimed a first podium of the season last weekend, while outgoing four-time champion Alex Carella would love to end the season on a high note for the Victory Team. The list of party-spoilers goes on and three-time champion Chiappe, Italy’s Francesco Cantando Poland’s Bartek Marszalek and Team Amaravati’s duo of Jonas Andersson and Erik Edin are capable of reaching Q3 and staying amongst the pack for the duration of what promises to be a thrilling race.
This is the first time that both the UIM-ABP Aquabike and UIM H2O World Championships have shared the race venue on the same weekend. H2O Racing’s President Nicolo di San Germano stated that six World Champions will be confirmed over the coming days.
The title showdown has detracted from the fight for the 2019 F4 Trophy where four drivers are in contention for the title. Frenchman Tom Chiappe and Germany’s Max Stilz are tied at the top of the points’ standings with 105 apiece, while England’s Sam Whittle is five adrift in third and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi has 98 points in fourth. There will be two 20-minute races on Thursday and Saturday with 40 points at stake to the winner of each race. The outcome is likely to go to the final lap of the second race.
The F4 tussle is a fitting curtain raiser to the “Last Chance on the Lagoon…”
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. Team Abu Dhabi runs under the management of Salem Al-Remeithi, board member and general manager of the ADIMSC, and 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini.
The timetable has been modified this weekend because of the UIM-ABP World Aquabike Championship. Thursday’s timetable (see below) features practice for all boats and then F4 time trials and the opening F4 race, before BRM Qualifying takes centre stage from 15.30hrs.
Friday is a rest day for the F1 H2O teams and then the rumble of Mercury engines will be heard for further practice on Saturday morning. This precedes the second of the F4 Trophy races at 14.30hrs and the 19th Grand Prix of Sharjah roars into life at 16.00hrs.
2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – standings after round 6:
1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 77pts
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 74pts
3. Erik Stark (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 65pts
4. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 54pts
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 37pts
6. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 35pts
7. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 19pts
8. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 18pts
8. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 18pts
10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 17pts
11. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 14pts
12. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 9pts
13. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 8pts
14. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
14. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
14. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 5pts
18. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 2pts
19. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team 1pt
2018 F4 Trophy – positions after race 10:
1. Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 105pts
1. Max Stilz (DEU) Blaze Performance 105pts
3. Sam Whittle (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 100pts
4. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 98pts
5. Ahmed Al-Fahim (UAE) Victory Team 69pts
6. Alexander Lindholm (FIN) Team Amaravati 53pts
7. Wu Bingchen (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 49pts
8. Pedro Fortuna (PRT) Team Sweden 35pts
9. Ben Jelf (GBR) Team Amaravati 27pts
10. Rudolf Mihaldinecz (HUN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 22pts
11. Xavier Autard (FRA) Maverick Racing 21pts
12. Quentin Dailly (FRA) Maverick Racing 17pts
13. Camille Broutechoux (FRA) Maverick Racing 8pts
14. Ali Allanjawi (UAE) Victory Team 7pts
14. Joris Colleret (FRA) Maverick Racing 7pts
16. Rashed Al-Remeithi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 6pts
17. Louise Vella (AUS) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
18. Ian Gonsalves (GUY) Maverick Racing 3pts
Timetable of events
Thursday, December 13
09.00-10.20 F4 free practice
09.30-09.50 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 Extra F1 free practice
13.00-14.00 F1 free practice
14.30-14.50 F4 race 1
15.30-16.30 BRM Qualifying
Saturday, December 15
09.10-09.30 F4 free practice
09.40-10.00 F4 time trials
10.15-11.15 F1 free practice
14.30-14/50 F4 race 2
16.00-17.00 Grand Prix of Sharjah