Championship leaders Torrente and Al-Qemzi to start race from seventh and sixth positions

  Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson qualifies in second; third for Finland’s Sami Selio

 

SHARJAH (UAE): Thursday, December 13:  Team Abu Dhabi’s Erik Stark claimed pole position to set up a thrilling finale to the UIM F1 H2O World Championship after a frantic BRM Qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khalid Lagoon on Thursday afternoon.

Needing to finish first or second to have any chance of winning his first world title, the Swede claimed pole with a lap of 45.61sec and will have clear water for Saturday’s final race of the season.

 Championship leader and team-mate Shaun Torrente was pushed out of the Q3 shoot-out by his team-mate Thani Al-Qemzi in the dying seconds of the session and will start the race from the uncomfortable confines of seventh after complaining that his DAC’s electrics failed leaving him stranded off the course when he needed to post a quick lap. Al-Qemzi was not able to claim a top three starting position either and will start what is sure to be a pulsating showdown from sixth.

 

Behind Stark, Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson and Finland’s double World Champion, Sami Selio, of the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team rounded off the podium qualifying positions. Frenchman Peter Morin of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team qualified fourth and the Victory Team’s Alex Carella was fifth.

 

A delighted Stark said: “It was amazing. I made a small mistake on my first lap and I was able to correct that on my second one and claim pole. It will be fun having Jonas (Andersson) on my side. The only thing I can do is win the race. I have done half of the work now. We have one day of rest tomorrow and then Saturday is race time again. The guys in the team have been fantastic and I really think we can go on and win the race. I had a bad race in Abu Dhabi, but we have moved on and I really enjoyed driving the boat. I know I have the speed.”

 

A disappointed Torrente added: “Everything was going to plan and we were going forward in Q2. I knew I needed to be quicker but we lost the dash, the trim, we lost everything. I came in directly because we cannot run like that. We tried to put a new battery in and nothing worked at all. Now I better get forward on Saturday….”

 

Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi finished fifth in the first of the weekend’s F4 Trophy races, but victory for Frenchman Tom Chiappe has given the Emirates Racing Team driver an eight-point cushion over Germany’s Max Stilz to take into the season’s finale on Saturday.

 

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.

 

BRM Qualifying

 

With Ahmed Al-Hameli still recovering from ingesting water during his Abu Dhabi crash last week and Duarte Benavente sidelined with back pain, 17 boats took to the water for Q1 and five would be eliminated. A photo shoot for the aquabike riders disturbed the water in the opening minutes and Erik Edin was the first to break the 50-second barrier.

 

The water began to settle and Torrente carded the early target of 48.67sec and the Team Abu Dhabi trio stormed into the top three places and the relative safety of potentially qualifying. Selio went quickest with a 48.11sec and that was sufficient to win a session where a troubled Cédric Deguisne, Simone Schuft, Sutthipan Sookbuangbon, Grant Trask and three-time World Champion Philippe Chiappe failed to make Q2 and Bartek Marszalek made the cut, although engine issues meant that he missed out on Q2.

 

Concentration levels were paramount for a crucial second session where none of the 11 survivors wanted to be in the bottom five or ‘on the bubble’ in the dying seconds. It was critical to post a fast lap early. Torrente hit the front with a 48.38sec only for Stark to run a 47.21 and top the times with 10 minutes to run. Torrente found himself down in eighth with seven minutes left after useful times by both Carella and Morin upped the pressure on the American. He responded with a 47.34 to leap back into the top six, as Selio topped the times with a 46.89 heading into the last five minutes. Al-Qemzi was now on the bubble himself, as Morin pushed Andersson out of the top six.

 

With less than three minutes to go Al-Qemzi slipped down to seventh as the pressure intensified and Torrente was pushed down to sixth. Morin topped the times with a 46.72, as Al-Qemzi missed out on the top six and Torrente nervously sat out the frantic final seconds only to see his team-mate post a 47.13sec and knock the American out id the top six. Marit Strømøy, Francesco Cantando, Filip Roms, Erik Edin and Torrente failed to make the six-boat Q3 shoot-out.

 

Last year’s pole winner Carella was first out and opened his Q3 account with a 46.63sec and improved with a 46.55. Al-Qemzi was next out for two of the most important laps of his career and he began with a 46.63 and followed up with a 47.20. It was not enough. Andersson responded with a stunning 45.67sec lap to hit the front and could not improve on his second tour.

 

Stark was next on the water knowing that he needed to finish in the top two places to stand any realistic chance of winning the title. The Swede opened up with a 46.01sec to move into second place and followed that with a pole-winning stunner of 45.61sec. A resurgent Selio and Morin stood in the multiple UIM F2 champion’s way and the Finn started out with a run of 46.11 to go third and maintained his position with a 45.79. 

 

Morin stood between Stark and a second pole position in seven days. The Frenchman slotted into fourth with a 46.22 but was unable to deprive Stark of a vital pole. It set up a fascinating three-way fight for the title on Saturday afternoon.

 

Free and extra practice

 

Torrente and Al-Qemzi sized each other up like a pair of old heavyweight boxers in the early exchanges in extra free practice before they slugged it out in the afternoon’s BRM Qualifying session. The American claimed the first round with a best time of 46.68sec in the first 15 minutes, with Al-Qemzi only 0.18 seconds behind in second. Stark sat out the first half of the stint where Andersson, Morin and Carella were the Team Abu Dhabi duo’s closest challengers.

 

A freak accident for Andersson forced the yellow flag to delay proceedings and enabled Stark to enter the course and benefit from clean water. He slotted into second with a 46.76sec lap with over 15 minutes to run. Al-Qemzi returned to the hot seat in the closing minutes to post the best time of 46.60sec to further ramp up the heat before the second round of practice in the early afternoon, as Stark closed to within 0.02 of Torrente’s quickest time. Stark then claimed the quickest lap of 46.08sec with four minutes to go and held on to win the session. Less than one second separated the top six with Bartek Marszalek impressing in fourth place.

 

The series-leading duo of Torrente and Al-Qemzi stayed off the water in the subsequent official practice session that went in favour of Stark with a fastest lap of 45.73sec. The Swede ran eight laps near the end of the hour and toppled Carella’s earlier time of 46.29sec.  Only 12 boats took to the water: Andersson guided his repaired DAC to third and Selio was fourth.

 

F4 Trophy – race 1

 

Frenchman Tom Chiappe, Germany’s Max Stilz and England’s Sam Whittle started the day as the favourites to push on and claim a first F4 Trophy title and they were able to size each other up for the first time in the morning’s free practice session. Team Amaravati’s Alexander Lindholm won the stint with a 44.86sec lap, as Stilz edged in front of Chiappe and Whittle. Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi is the fourth contender for the title and failed to start the practice stint.

 

It was a different story in the time trials to determine the race starting order and Chiappe leapt to the top of the rankings with a run of 45.00sec. Whittle slotted into second with a 45.14sec tour and Lindholm, Stilz and Al-Mehairbi rounded off the top five until a lap of 44.54sec gave Lindholm provisional pole and pushed Chiappe down to second. The Frenchman responded quickly to claim pole with a 43.97sec lap, as Lindholm slipped to second, the Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim moved up to third and Whittle, Al-Mehairbi and Stilz rounded off the top six in a session that finished under a yellow flag.

 

Chiappe led his rivals from the rolling start of the 25-lap opening race and began to edge clear of Lindholm and Stilz, as Al-Mehairbi got pushed wide early on but managed to find a way passed a spinning Al-Fahim and into fifth behind Whittle. The boats held their positions after the opening eight laps, despite Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Remeithi falling by the wayside after six, and the procession continued through halfway. 

 

Distances began to appear between the boats as the procession ran on unabated and Chiappe’s lead grew to 6.03 seconds after 16 tours of the course. There were no late dramas and the Frenchman sealed his third win in seven days by 13.00 seconds to take an eight-point championship advantage into the final race on Saturday. Lindholm passed the chequered flag in second, Stilz was third and Al-Mehairbi shadowed Whittle over the line in fifth to bring the procession to a welcome conclusion. The outcome gave Team Amaravati a five-point lead over Emirates Racing in the Trophy Teams’ Championship.

 

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 Grand Prix of Sharjah – BRM Qualifying times

Q3

1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi                                                           45.61sec

2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati                                           45.67sec             

3. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team                                     45.79sec

4. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                        46.22sec

5. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team                                                     46.55sec

6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                                    46.63sec             

Q2

7. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi                                    47.34sec

8. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team                                                48.11sec

9. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati                                                           48.53sec

10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team                                   48.95sec                  

11. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team                                      50.67sec

12. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team                      DNS

Q1

13. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                50.40sec

14. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team                     52.20sec        

15. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team                                                     55.66sec

16. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team                                     1min 07.88sec

17. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team                                                    1min 48.96sec

Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team                                    DNS

Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team                                                     DNS

 

2018 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championship – final positions:

1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi                                                                107pts

2. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi                                    65pts                                                    

3. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                                    62pts

4. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati                                           43pts    

5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                        42pts    

6. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team                                                35pts

7. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team                                                                31pts                                                                               

8. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                        23pts

9. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team                                     21pts

10. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati                           14pts    

11. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team                     12pts                                    

11. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team                      12pts                    

13. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team                                   9pts

 

2018 F4 Trophy – positions after race 11:                                                               

1. Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team                                      125pts                                                  

2. Max Stilz (DEU) Blaze Performance                                                                117pts             

3. Sam Whittle (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team                                                    109pts                                  

4. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                      105pts                                        

5. Ahmed Al-Fahim (UAE) Victory Team                                                     72pts                                                                                    

6. Alexander Lindholm (FIN) Team Amaravati                                                68pts

7. Wu Bingchen (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team                                     54pts               

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. Ali Allanjawi (UAE) Victory Team                                                11pts   

14. Camille Broutechoux (FRA) Maverick Racing                                   8pts 

15. 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

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