Sharjah race victory not enough for Stark to win title; Jonas Andersson finishes second

Frenchman Tom Chiappe wins F4 Trophy title; Mohammed Al-Mehairbi seventh in final F4 race

 SHARJAH (UAE): Saturday, December 15:  Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente is the new World Champion after a fitting finale to a barnstorming UIM F1 H2O World Championship at the 19th Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khalid Lagoon on Saturday.

 Third place was sufficient for the American to claim his maiden world title by four points, despite the fact that team-mate Erik Stark did all he could to lead the race from pole position to the chequered flag.

 Torrente, the new World Champion, said: “This has been my lifelong dream and ambition. I thank everyone at home in Fort Myers and my amazing team at Team Abu Dhabi. We had problems the last two races. They (the team) said keep your head up, it will work out. I came from seventh to third and I did just that. We made it work and we are World Champions together.

“What a race. What a restart. I was fighting my mind trying to keep it all together. I was just managing my race. I knew I was in a good spot. I was just trying to get it home. I got a run on the second restart on Sami (Selio) and I just let it hang. Thankfully it didn’t blow over. I knew I was there. I knew I was safe in fourth if it stayed like that. It’s all done now. I couldn’t take another day like that…!”

 The three-driver battle for the championship became a duel when Thani Al-Qemzi sustained engine issues midway through the race. The Emirati had moved up from sixth to third at the start, but was pegged back by an unfortunate yellow flag. He held third until technical issues ruined the title dream after 17 of the 44 laps.

Race winner Stark said: “I didn’t hope too much before, you know. Shaun is a very good driver. I did my race and I could not do any more. I had some bad luck in Abu Dhabi. That was it.”

 A disappointed Al-Qemzi said: “This is racing. I broke my engine. Maybe some electrics broke inside. I did my best from the start. I was second and there was an accident and I went back to sixth at the next start. I push hard, but I had no luck.”

 Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson finished in a solid second place and Finland’s Sami Selio of the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team finished fourth with Andersson’s team-mate Erik Edin rounding off the top five. Their performances were overshadowed somewhat by the Team Abu Dhabi fever at the top of the championship standings.

 His Highness Dr. Sheikh 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, congratulated His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the UAE, on Team Abu Dhabi’s second successive world title and the sixth in the team’s history.

 He also congratulated His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and the Supreme Council members and the people of the UAE on the achievement.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi rounded off his F4 Trophy challenge with seventh place in the second of the weekend’s races where Frenchman Tom Chiappe claimed the title for the Emirates Racing Team by finishing the race in third behind Alexander Lindholm and German title rival Max Stilz. The Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim led from the start pontoon to the chequered flag but was handed a one-lap penalty for a jumpstart.

 Grand Prix of Sharjah

 After all the hype and fanfare in the build-up to the showdown, Stark, Al-Qemzi and Torrente lined up in pole, sixth and seventh on the pontoon. Stark needed a top two finish in the 44-lap race to stand any chance of claiming the title. Torrente needed to finish in front of Al-Qemzi or at least fourth if Stark was to win. Engine changes pushed Chiappe, Trask and Edin down the starting order.

 The stage was set for lights-out and a thrilling finale to a pulsating season. A spanner in the potential works for Torrente was the introduction of a demarcation buoy for those sitting in P7 to P17, while the top six would head along the 530-metre straight for the commitment buoy. The touch paper had been set for on-water fireworks…

 A slight headwind into the first turn didn’t help matters, but Stark and Al-Qemzi made a stunning start and managed to hold first and third through the opening turns. But a yellow flag for Sutthipan Sookbuangbon’s barrel-roll at turn one ruined the Emirati’s start and he was pushed back to sixth before the resumption.

 Action resumed on lap three and Stark maintained his lead from Andersson, Al-Qemzi, Selio and Torrente, but Torrente moved passed Selio and into fourth place. Al-Qemzi and Torrente very nearly came together on the next couple of turns and lost a little real estate heading into lap six, as Stark continued to lead Andersson by 2.56 seconds. It was advantage Torrente in the title stakes as it stood. Carella overtook Selio to snatch fifth place.

 Lap eight, and Stark maintained his lead over Andersson, Al-Qemzi and Torrente and extended his advantage to 4.08 seconds at one-quarter distance. Bartek Marszalek was sidelined on lap 11, but the leading six drivers held station and Stark reached lap 15 with a 2.97-second lead. The title was still in Torrente’s hands on count back so long as he finished fourth and Al-Qemzi wasn’t able to overtake Andersson and Stark and grab the lead.

 Stark’s lead grew to 4.32 seconds on lap 16, but drama unfolded when Al-Qemzi spluttered off the circuit with engine electrical issues on lap 18 and Torrente moved up to third. It strengthened the American’s grip on the world title, as long as he could stay in the top four to the chequered flag. Stark led by 4.41 seconds at halfway and the pressure eased still further on Torrente when Carella suffered technical issues of his own on the 21st lap. The four-time World Champion’s demise lifted Selio into fourth behind Stark, Andersson and Torrente.

 Stark maintained a solid lead of 4.13 seconds over Andersson into lap 27, but Torrente began to ease his pace slightly to conserve the engine and stay in third place. There were no changes to the running order inside the top 10 into lap 28, although Selio began to close in on Torrente and Peter Morin was forced out of the race. Torrente needed to be careful not to fall foul of an overtaking challenge by Selio and he managed to hold a 2.04-second lead over the Finn at the end of lap 34.

 Race leader Stark kept his composure and guided his DAC through the closing nervy laps to confirm a start-to-finish victory. But it wasn’t enough to claim the world title.

 Torrente was happy to shadow Andersson at distance and fend off the challenges from Selio and fifth-placed Francesco Cantando. He was 1.84 seconds in front of Selio with eight laps to run and coasted to the chequered flag in third place to seal his first world title and Team Abu Dhabi’s sixth. Cantando ran out of luck five laps from the finish and his retirement lifted Erik Edin into a fine fifth place.

 Free practice

 There was no point in the leaders taking any risks in the final practice session of the season and Team Abu Dhabi, in particular, used the session just to shakedown the boats and check everything was working before the race. 

 Al-Qemzi clocked a 46.78sec lap early in the hour and returned to the pits ahead of Selio, Stark and Torrente. That time held until late in the session - where Stark put 13 laps on his engine to finish fifth - but a late burst from Strømøy saw the Norwegian grab the quickest lap of 46.70sec and Carella posted a late 46.72sec to go second. Andersson failed to start the practice hour after electrical issues.

 F4 Trophy – race 2

 Frenchman Tom Chiappe, Germany’s Max Stilz and England’s Sam Whittle stood a chance of winning the F4 Trophy with Chiappe heading into the showdown with an eight-point lead over the German and a 16-point advantage over Whittle. Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi was fourth, but a disappointing end to the season had cost the Emirati his chance to claim the title.

 Chiappe posted his intent with the quickest lap of 44.65sec in a free practice session where he beat Lindholm by 2/100ths of a second. Al-Mehairbi finished the stint in fifth. But Alexander Lindholm hit back to claim pole position with a hot lap of 45.16sec and Ahmed Al-Fahim pushed Chiappe down to third on the pontoon. Al-Mehairbi settled into fourth, ahead of Chiappe’s title rivals, Stilz and Whittle. Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Remeithi qualified in 10thplace.

 Al-Fahim got a jump on his nine rivals from the pontoon start and began to edge away from Lindholm, Stilz, Chiappe and Whittle through the opening turns of the 25-lap race. Al-Mehairbi and Al-Remeithi held eighth and 10th. The procession continued unchanged through the first 10 laps, although Lindholm continued to close in on the leader’s rooster tail.

 By halfway, the lead was only 1.25 seconds but the Victory Team driver extended that advantage to 3.02 seconds with eight laps remaining. The chequered flag brought the procession to a conclusion with Al-Fahim taking the win from Lindholm and Stilz and Chiappe claiming the title. Al-Mehairbi and Al-Remeithi finished the race in seventh and ninth after Ali Allanjawi collided with his team-mate and race leader at turn four of lap 20, flipped the second Victory boat and lost ninth place.

 As a result, the race finished under a yellow flag. But Al-Fahim was deemed to have jumped the start, was handed a one-lap penalty and duly gifted the win to Lindholm, as Team Amaravati clinched the Trophy Championship for Teams.

2018 Grand Prix of Sharjah – result:
1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 44 laps
2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati @12.27aec
3. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi @22.95sec
4. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team @25.89sec
5. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati @28.39sec
6. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team L2
7. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team L2
8. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team L3
9. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team L4
10. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team L9
11. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team DNF
12. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team DNF
13. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team DNF
14. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi DNF
15. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team DNF
16. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team DNF
17. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team DNF
2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – final standings:
1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 89pts
2. Erik Stark (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 85pts
3. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 74pts
4. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 54pts
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42pts
6. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 35pts
7. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 29pts
8. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 28pts
9. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 25pts
10. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 18pts
11. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 17pts
12. Alex Carella (ITA)
13. VictoryTeam 9pts
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 9pts
15. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 8pts
16. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 8pts
17. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 7pts
18. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
19. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 3pts
20. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team 1pt
2018 F4 Trophy – final standings:
1. Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 137pts
2. Max Stilz (DEU) Blaze Performance 132pts
3. Sam Whittle (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 118pts
4. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 109pts
5. Alexander Lindholm (FIN) Team Amaravati 88pts
6. Ahmed Al-Fahim (UAE) Victory Team 75pts
7. Wu Bingchen (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 61pts
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. Rashed Al-Remeithi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 8pts
15. Camille Broutechoux (FRA) Maverick Racing 8pts
16. Joris Colleret (FRA) Maverick Racing 7pts
17. Louise Vella (AUS) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
18. Remi Sebastian (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
19. Ian Gonsalves (GUY) Maverick Racing 3pts