Three-time defending world champion Philippe Chiappe marked the start of another title defense in emphatic style with a victory in the opening round of the Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O season in Portimao, Portugal, on Sunday.
Philippe Chiappe won the first race of F1 H2O season in Portimao, Portugal, on Sunday. Photo by Simon Palfrader/F1 H2O
Starting in the third spot from the pontoon, the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China driver got a good start at immediately moved up to second, passing Erik Stark, by the end of the first lap of the Grand Prix of Portugal. The French champion trailed pole-sitter and race leader Shaun Torrente for nine of the 50 laps, then hit the front as the Victory Team driver slowed and left the circuit with engine problems.
Torrente’s departure brought about a disappointing ending to the day for Victory Team after the Floridian and his teammate Ahmed Al Hameli went one-two in qualifying then failed to record any points since Al Hemli didn’t start the race and Torrente broke down.
For the last 40 laps, Chiappe’s main challenge came from Stark, who kept the pressure on the leader but saw his hopes of a podium on his return to racing for Team Sweden fall two laps short of the checkered flag after an engine problem. His teammate, Jonas Andersson, suffered the same fate after just five laps.
“This race was all about managing the engine after what we learned in qualifying about the fuel,” Chiappe said in an F1 H2O release. “My engine didn’t have the same punch as normal so we decided to play it safe with the setup. I sat back a little and took my chance when it came.”
American Shaun Torrente held the pole for the F1 H2O season opener in Portugal but left the race after nine laps with engine issues.
Mad Croc BABA Racing’s Sami Selio made up for a frustrating morning session after qualifying in ninth and despite a three-way duel with Duarte Benavente and Bartek Marszalek early on, broke away to take his second consecutive podium in Portimao.
Benavente and Marzsalek enjoyed a race long tussle and the late demise of Stark upped the ante with a podium place at stake. In the end, Benavente took advantage of a mistake from Marszalek, who struck a buoy, and passed him four laps from the flag to take his second podium at the Portugal race.
The race of the day belonged to Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella after a desperate weekend for the team, which damaged four out of five engines. Carella was the only one of the three to make the start as Thani Al Qemzi and Rashed Al Qemzi were both sidelined.
Despite qualifying in fifth, an engine change forced the Italian driver to start from 15th off the pontoon. He ended up clawing his way through the pack to finish in a remarkable fourth place after Marszalek was given a one-lap penalty for taking out the buoy that dropped him to fifth overall.
Cedric Deguisne marked his and his Maverick F1 Team’s full-time entry into the championship with a sixth-place finish despite running for 40 laps with a stuck throttle and controlling the boat with the trim.
Australia’s Grant Trask completed a good day for the F1 Atlantic Team, driving from 16th to take seventh place, while Chiappe’s new teammate Peter Morin picking up two championship points on his F1H2O debut in ninth.
Round two of the F1 H2O World Championship takes place in Evian, France, on July 1-2.
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Trask Moves to F1 Atlantic Team for 2017 F1 H2O Season
Torrente Wins in Sharjah, Chiappe Earns Third-Straight F1 H2O World Title