It took French driver Philippe Chiappe 16 races and competing in China since 2004 to reach his goal, but the defending world champion of the CTIC China Team captured his first victory today in the People’s Republic at the fourth round of the Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship. The accomplishment came in front of more than 100,000 race fans that gathered to watch the 21st Grand Prix of China along the Liu River in Liuzhou.
Philippe Chiappe led from start to finish at today’s F1 H2O Grand Prix of China. Photos courtesy Simon Palfrader/Idea Marketing
Chiappe, who resides in Rouen, led from pole position to the finish and held off stiff competition from drivers from 12 different countries on the tricky six-pin, two-kilometer race circuit, winning by seven seconds ahead of Team Abu Dhabi driver Thani Al Qamzi who has won twice in China.
“It was a tough 45-lap event and I had to be very careful through the traffic today,” Chiappe said in a press release from F1 H2O. “We had the perfect package. I feel very satisfied with our performance and because we didn’t have any real issues all weekend long under extreme pressure to finally win here at my team’s home race circuit.”
Thani felt pressure all race long from the third-place finisher and another two-time winner in China—Sami Selio of Finland who stayed hot on his heals in the Mad Croc BABA Racing boat, finishing just 4.46 seconds back for the final podium place position.
“For me, it was an easy drive today,” Al Qamzi said. “The conditions were perfect with a little wind and really no large waves so we just cruised home from our second starting position. It was my first podium since being here a year ago and it felt good to pick up some points.”
Selio was excited to get back on the podium, as well.
“It was great to finally reach the podium after two crashes this season and get back into my old ‘classic’ BABA hull again,” Selio said. “We are still searching for a title but now we need a lot of help to pull it off. Most importantly, we’re moving in the right direction.”
With two races left, American driver Shaun Torrente sits in second place in the overall standings, 16 points behind Chiappe.
In the fight for fourth place, Kuwaiti driver Youssef Al Rubayan in the F1 Atlantic Team machine battled with American driver and points leader Shaun Torrente of the Victory Team for most of the race and came out on top at the end picking up nine points. Torrente, who lives in Florida, hit a buoy and was penalized two laps, which dropped him into eighth place in the race and into second overall in the driver championship standings. He now trails Chiappe by 16 points, 55-39.
Norwegian driver Marit Stromoy had a masterful day charging up from having qualified 14th and taking fifth in her EMIC Team BABA boat for her best finish in more than two years. Swedish driver Jonas Andersson, who won in China back in 2009 and had qualified fifth, fought hard to finish sixth after finding his setup less than ideal in his Team Sweden Molgaard boat. He now sits fourth with 29 points in the championships standings behind driver Youssef Al-Rubayan, who has 36 with two races to go.
Three-time defending race champion Alex Carella of Team Abu Dhabi dropped out early on the fourth lap with problems ending his string of victories in Liuzhou dating back to 2012.
The attention shifts to United Arab Emirates with back-to-back races planned in Abu Dhabi (Dec. 10-11) and Sharjah (Dec. 17-18) to determine this year’s world champion.
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