Emirates Team driver Ahmed Al Hameli held off some tremendous pressure and the stifling heat for all 50 laps to win Monday’s Grand Prix of Liuzhou, the fifth round of the 2016 Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship in front of thousands of spectators on the Liu River just outside Liuzhou, China.
Ahmed Al Hameli earned his first F1 H2O victory in four years on Monday in China. Photo courtesy Simon Palfrader/F1 H2O
The 37-year-old driver from Abu Dhabi got a great start from the pole and held off last year’s winner and back-to-back world champion, Philippe Chiappe, of the hometown CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team to take a 6.3-second victory against the field of 18 drivers from 11 different countries.
“I can’t believe it’s been five long years since I last won a race, but a lot has happened in my life since I won in Doha in 2012 and now it has come full circle and I truly feel I am back,” stated the elated Al Hameli in the F1 H2O release. “It was a big day for my Emirates Team and my manager Scott Gillman as we came away with not only my victory but my teammate Erik Stark finished fifth as well.”
It was a popular victory around the paddock as the fairly dominant driver on the tour had to take a one year “chicane in life” when it was discovered he had developed a brain tumor and spent most of 2012 in North America getting treatment. He came back at the start of the 2013 season but has had mixed results until earning his seventh career victory in Liuzhou.
For the French driver Chiappe, he didn’t defend his race title, but he has taken another step toward winning his third straight championship with 15 important points as runner-up in Liuzhou.
Victory Team driver and Florida native Shaun Torrente has two races left to try to catch two-time defending world champion Philippe Chiappe for the overall points title. Photo courtesy Vittorio Ubertone/Idea Marketing
“It was very hot today and even though I came within a half second of Ahmed late in the race, I realized the points were more important than pushing too hard and possibly making a mistake and throwing away everything we have gone for so far in 2016,” said the driver from Rouen. “Now I have a 13-point lead in the championship with two races to be run and we can focus on possibly closing things out in early December in Abu Dhabi if possible.”
Sami Selio of Finland continued his charge toward the front of the drivers’ championship, picking up 12 more points for his third straight podium and a third-place finish after scoring no points in the first two races of the year for the Mad Croc Baba Racing Team.
Finishing fourth after starting in sixth was Victory Team driver Shaun Torrente. The American, who has finished in the top four the last five races, pushed his way past Stark and Italy’s Alex Carella, who had trim problems slow him down then force him to retire less than halfway into the race, dropping from fourth place to 15th. The Team Abu Dhabi driver also dropped from third to fourth in the championship with 42 points.
“True, we lost points to Chiappe today, but we are still on track to put together something special before the end of the season,” Torrente said. “We are only 13 points back and that keeps us squarely in the mix.”
The F1 H2O tour resumes in Abu Dhabi, UAE, (Dec. 7-10) for the sixth round in the world championship, which wraps up the following weekend in the Sharjah, UAE.
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