Three-time Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O world champion Alex Carella thought he gave the “new look” Team Abu Dhabi organization its first win at the 19th Grand Prix of France on Sunday but the victory party was cut short after UIM officials deemed his setup was not within the rules, thus handing Kuwaiti driver Youssef Al Rubayan his first career victory.
Kuwait’s Yousef Al Rubayan of the F1 Atlantic Team won the F1 H2O Grand Prix of France. Photo by Vittorio Ubertone/Idea Marketing.
The race, run in front of thousand of fans along the southern banks of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) at the second round of the F1 H2O World Championship, looked at first like it was going to be a storybook ending for defending world champion Philippe Chiappe. The driver from Rouen, France, jumped into the lead from pole position and led Carella and the rest of the field for half of the 34-lap event until he came to a sudden stop on the course.
“We felt we had the strongest package in the paddock and it was going the way we planned until the flywheel let go leaving us dead in the water and no points on the weekend,” Chiappe said. “I feel sorry that we couldn’t deliver the victory for the thousands that were cheering for us but through all this bad news, the good news is we still think we have the package to beat anyone on any weekend this season. So, we’ll try to reverse our bad luck when we head to Porto, Portugal in a month.”
A second surprise came when another multiple-time world champion Sami Selio of the Mad Croc Baba Team, who battled his way from fifth off the dock to the runner-up position, was given a one-lap penalty after destroying a buoy on the course that dropped him down to fifth place.
Finishing third and reaching the podium for the first time in his young career was Finnish driver Filip Roms, Selio’s teammate on the Mad Croc Baba Team. Swedish driver Jonas Andersson took second in his Team Sweden Molgaard boat finishing on the podium for the second straight race in France dating back to his third-place finish in La Rochelle in 2007. He is tied for second in the championship points race with Al Rubayan with 24 points.
Shaun Torrente made his debut with the Victory Team in Evian, France. Photo by Vittorio Ubertone/Idea Marketing.
The race took another turn when on the 25th lap, Erik Stark of the Emirates Team was caught from behind as he tried to hold off the charging Francesco Cantando of Italy who had managed to move up 10 positions while looking for sixth when he and Stark came together going into turn five spinning Stark out after hitting his engine cowling and the Motorglass F1 driver barrel rolling to a stop ending both their days. As the clean-up continued the race ended under a yellow flag when it was impossible to get the safety personnel and the course cleared in the allotted time before the completed 34 laps.
For American driver Shaun Torrente, who came into the race leading the drivers championship with 20 points and looking like he would add at least 15 more, the yellow flag didn’t help his cause. The Victory Team driver ended in fourth after he slowed during the pace boat period and, with a clogged engine fuel filter, limped his way to the finish. He’s still leading the championship with 29 points.
“We had a really good day that almost ended up great,” Torrente said. “We were running second most of the race until the fuel tank started to come apart and clogged the fuel filters. The race finished under yellow where I was second but they said I did not maintain my position so I finished sixth (with the DQs I moved up to fourth). I kept the points lead, but would have won if the appeal went my way. We’re focused on Portugal—the new F1 H2O Victory Team is charging forward.”
The series, which appears to be wide open after the first two races of the season, heads to the historic city of Porto in Portugal for the first time on August 1-2.