Not only did Team Abu Dhabi have reason to celebrate on Saturday after earning its third Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship Teams’ title in four years, the team’s only native United Arab Emirates driver, Thani Al-Qemzi, created a piece of history by becoming the first Arab driver ever to win the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.
Race winner Thani Al-Qemzi of Team Abu Dhabi entertains the crowd on the beach in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Photos courtesy Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club
The Emirati snatched the lead on the first lap and held off a fierce challenge from Frenchman Peter Morin of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team to seal the win by just 0.91 seconds at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Saturday afternoon. Al-Qemzi’s first victory in the F1 H2O World Championship since winning in Sharjah in 2012 also catapulted the local star into second place in the driver championship standings—three points behind his American teammate Shaun Torrente. Next week in Sharjah, the Team Abu Dhabi drivers will lock horns with their other teammate, Sweden’s Erik Stark, to decide the outcome of the championship.
“I made a good start and I went far away from everyone and I keep a little bit away,” said an overwhelmed Al-Qemzi, who was shrouded by VIPs, well-wishers and media in the pits. “I kept my line and my boat was strong. I felt relaxed and I pushed hard from that. The last five laps, I see that he (Morin) stay behind me and then I go very fast. Insha’allah, next week I do the same. This is my country. I have always been nervous here and never had any favors and now I made it. This is a fantastic win for the whole team. We are all so happy.”
If Florida’s Shaun Torrente can win next week’s season finale in Sharjah, he will finish as world champion atop the drivers points standings and bring home his second 2018 world championship as he earned the XCAT title last month (read the story).
Torrente, who qualified in the sixth spot, finished the race in the same position, while technical issues and a non-finish for the pole-sitter Stark after 29 laps means that Torrente can seal the title if he wins the last race of the year. Al-Qemzi can do the same, while Stark will be relying on the performance of his teammates to have a shot at the title in what promises to be a white-hot finale to an exciting season.
With the buzz in the pits and paddock area after the home victory, Morin’s gutsy second place went virtually unnoticed, while Finland’s Sami Selio bounced back from a miserable season to claim third place for the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team. Marit Strømøy of the Emirates Racing Team finished fourth and Italian veteran Francesco Cantando was fifth.
Team Abu Dhabi’s third Teams’ Championship title in four seasons—the team won the prestigious competition in 2015 and 2017—was a historic one for the team operating out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club under the management of Salem Al-Remeithi, board member and general manager of ADIMSC, and 10-time world champion Guido Cappellini.
“After 18 years, Thani has won the race in our home,” Cappellini said. “It has been an important day because we have won the teams’ world championship. The drivers’ championship is not closed. Now in Sharjah it will be one incredible game for our three drivers. The first goal today was to win the teams’ championship and now we can focus on next weekend.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Torrente Wins F1 H2O Grand Prix Of India
Torrente Finishes First In China As Team Abu Dhabi Goes 1-2-3 Again
Team Abu Dhabi Trio Eyeing More F1 H2O Success
Team Abu Dhabi Finishes 1-2-3 In F1 H2O Grand Prix Of France
Sweden’s Stark Joins Team Abu Dhabi For F1 H2O Season
Stark Wins F1 H2O Grand Prix Of London, Torrente Disqualified
Team Abu Dhabi’s Torrente, Al-Qemzi Finish 1, 2 In F1 H2O Opener In Portugal
Team Nollet Wins 24 Hours Of Rouen, Team Abu Dhabi Battles Back To Second
Torrente To Race XCAT For Team Abu Dhabi
Carella Cruises To Fourth F1 H2O World Championship