Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qamzi claims stunning race victory to confirm prestigious F4-S Trophy title


ABU DHABI (UAE): Friday, December 9:  Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson survived three yellow flag stoppages to claim a thrilling victory in Friday afternoon’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, as Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella recovered from yesterday’s accident to snatch third place from the clutches of the Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente within metres of the finish of the race at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater. 

 In a race that has strengthened runner-up Philippe Chiappe’s case for claiming a third successive world title heading into next weekend’s Sharjah showdown, yellow flag incidents ignited the drama and Carella overcame a crash on Friday and news of the death of his father in Italy on Thursday evening to round off the podium in a nail-biting climax. Andersson’s win was his first since the 2009 Grand Prix in Liuzhou and a fifth in his career. 

 “It was a crazy, crazy race,” said an emotional Carella. “I pushed so hard on that last lap, right to the last metre to catch Shaun. It was a fantastic podium today after what happened with the crash yesterday and the news of my father. This is so special, this podium for me.”

 Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi started the race from seventh and climbed as high as sixth before his DAC began to take on water after a collision with a turn buoy and he retired during the third yellow flag stoppage. 

 Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qamzi and Mohammed Al-Mehairbi began the F4-S race in second and third positions behind Brisset. Al-Qamzi hit the front of the 18-lap race at the first turn buoy and stormed away from his rivals to clinch the prestigious title in perfect style with two races to spare. It was a sensational performance by the talented young Emirati and fully rewarded his team management for their decision to put him through hectic F2 and endurance racing programmes in 2016. It also marked the first globally recognised title for a local driver from the progressive Team Abu Dhabi stable. 

 “I feel so happy, it was a nice race and I pushed hard to get the first place,” said a delighted Al-Qamzi. “I suppose second or third would have been enough, but I wanted to win this race for my country and take the championship. I passed on the first buoy, when the leader (Brisset) spun, and the red boat was behind me, but I didn’t care about him. I just go.”

 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 (ADIMSC) 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 auspices of the ADIMSC and board member and assistant general manager Salem Al-Romeithi.

 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi 

 Team Abu Dhabi didn’t have to change Carella’s engine and the Italian lined up in sixth on the pontoon behind Andersson, Stark, Chiappe, Torrente and Al-Hameli. But the three-time World Champion had received the tragic news overnight that his father had passed away after a long illness in Italy. It was going to be a very emotional day for the local title contender.

 Chiappe’s engine was rewired after the morning’s practice session and Torrente had his own power concerns, as the lights went out and all 19 boats charged to the first turn buoy in a tricky breeze at the start of the 45-lap race. Chiappe made a superb start, but Andersson managed to fend off the Frenchman and maintain the advantage through the opening lap. The top seven held station into lap three, although Francesco Cantando clipped a turn buoy on his 20th Abu Dhabi race and was docked one lap.

 The Swede led by 6.88 seconds heading into the seventh lap, but Carella and Al-Qamzi could not improve on their sixth and seventh positions, as Chiappe overtook Stark to snatch second place to strengthen his grip on a third successive world title. The race was yellow flagged on lap 10 when Xiong Ziwei crashed out of contention and action resumed three laps later with the leaders bunched up again.

 Andersson held his advantage, as Stark forced Chiappe to run wide in the battle for second place. But Al-Hameli barrel-rolled within seconds of the restart after finding himself sandwiched between two boats driving into the sun and the race was stopped again. Carella and Al-Qamzi moved up to fifth and sixth.

 The green flag was raised on lap 17 and Andersson stayed ahead of Chiappe, Stark, Torrente and Carella, as Marit Stromoy displaced Al-Qamzi seconds before the yellow flag was raised for a third time when Andersson’s team mate Jesper Forss flipped spectacularly into the wind on the grandstand straight. Al-Qamzi’s disappointing season continued when his boat began to sink on the course.

 Racing resumed on lap 22 and Andersson again held his lead from Chiappe, but Torrente overtook Stark to snatch third place and the Swede then fell behind Carella into fifth place. Sami Selio’s climb through the field continued and he moved into sixth behind Stark.

 By the start of lap 28, Andersson led Chiappe by 1.68 seconds and the leading sextet held station into lap 32, although Carella began to close on Torrente in his bid to snatch the last place on the podium and Stark was managing to hold off Selio and Stromoy to maintain fifth.

 Andersson extended his lead to 6.86 seconds with four laps to run, but Stark was forced out of the running  with technical issues and his demise lifted Selio into fifth position. There were no late dramas for the leading Swede, however, and he held on to claim a stunning victory, as Chiappe strengthened his grip on the world title with second place when Carella managed to sneak passed Torrente and claim a podium finish in front of the grandstand on the flying finish. Chiappe takes a 19-point lead to Sharjah, with Torrente needing to win the race and hope that the Frenchman fails to finish.

 Power steering issues prevented Mike Szymura taking to the water in the morning’s practice session that was won by Marit Stromoy with a quickest lap of 46.14sec. Stark was second and pole sitter Andersson made it an all-Swedish 2-3. Carella only ran for six laps to carry out pre-race checks, while Al-Qamzi was eighth quickest.

 F4-S – race 2 

 Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qamzi lined up for the second of his home races with a 38-point lead over Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen. Beating the Baba Racing driver by three points or more would give the talented Emirati the world title with three races to spare. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi shadowed Jeremy Brisset to the second fastest time in the morning’s free practice session and Al-Qamzi slotted into third in preparation for the timed trials that followed soon afterwards.

 Al-Qamzi stormed to the top of the leader board in the timed trials with a lap of 1min 04.36sec but was deprived of pole position by a last gasp tour of 1min 03.94sec by Brisset. Al-Mehairbi qualified in third place. “I am happy with second place,” said Al-Qamzi. “I pushed hard to get the first but Jeremy beat my time. I will try to win the race, but I must be sensible and think of the championship. I want to win the championship here in Abu Dhabi.”

 Al-Qamzi made a superb start and managed to gain the inside line on Brisset through turn three and snatch the lead coming into the home straight at the end of lap one. There were a couple of spins down the 10-boat field, but Al-Qamzi began to pull away from his rivals in his bid to clinch the title in style. Al-Mehairbi had another poor start and slipped to fourth.

 By the start of lap five, the Team Abu Dhabi driver’s lead was 6.32 seconds and he extended that to 8.38 seconds through lap seven, as a procession developed behind him led by Brisset, Bingchen Wu, Al-Mehairbi and Al-Mansoori. The lead grew to 9.33 seconds at two-thirds distance and Al-Qamzi held on to delight the home crowd by reaching the chequered flag 13.02 seconds in front of Finland’s Kalle Viippo after Brisset dropped out of contention. Bingchen Wu rounded off the podium places and Al-Mehairbi was fourth. Mansoor Al-Mansoori was docked one lap for jumping the start and Tom Chiappe was disqualified for taking the wrong direction on the course after a spin.

 2016 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi – race result:

1. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden                                               45 laps

2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                        @11.36sec

3. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                                                    @12.49sec

4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team                                                     @12.83sec

5. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing                                   @26.19sec

6. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team                                     @27.80sec

7. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing                                   @33.30sec

8. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team                                     @35.80sec

9. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze Performance Team                     @38.46sec

10. Grant Trask (AUS) EMIC Racing Team                                       L1

2016 UIM F1H2O World Championship – Drivers’ Championship standings:

1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                        82 pts

2. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team                                                     63 pts

3. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden                                               57 pts

4. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                                                    54 pts

4. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing                                   54 pts

6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Emirates Racing Team                      25 pts

7. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing                                   22 pts

7. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team                                     22 pts

9. Erik Stark (SWE) Emirates Racing Team                                      19 pts

10. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team                                     15 pts, etc

2016 UIM F4-S Trophy – latest positions:

1. Rashed Al-Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                                    155 pts

2. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Baba Racing                                  104 pts

3. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden                                                                89 pts

4. Jeremy Brisset (FRA) F1 Atlantic Team                                                    82 pts

5. Bingchen Wu (CHN) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team                                64 pts

6. Mohamed Al-Yamahi (UAE) Victory Team                                    61 pts

7. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi                      58 pts

8. Tom Chiappe (FRA) EMIC Racing Team                                                41 pts

9. Magnus Sederholm (FIN) Team Sweden                                               35 pts

10. Mansoor Al-Mansoori (UAE) Emirates Racing Team                      22 pts

11. Ali Bin Shaiban (UAE) Emirates Racing Team                                      19 pts

12. Paolo Longhi (ITA) Blaze Performance Team                                    16 pts

13. Sigitas Mickus (LTU) Team Sweden                                                    2 pts