With both the fourth round of the F1 H2O World Championship happening in Abu Dhabi and the final round of the H1 Unlimited series taking place in Qatar, boat racing fans in the Middle East are in for some serious competition this week. Earlier today, qualifying took place for both series—here’s a brief look at the results.
American Shaun Torrente of the Qatar Team just missed the pole for the second straight week in today’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi qualifying session.
Chiappe Edges Torrente for Pole Position
It took 12 years and 91 race events but French driver Philippe Chiappe earned his first pole position of his career, laying down a blinding 45.33-second time and a 166.78 kph speed in his new Moore boat in front of thousands of race fans along the lovely corniche in downtown Abu Dhabi.
Chiappe, who sits second in the drivers championship with 30 points behind Italy’s Alex Carella of the Qatar Team, will lead the field of 18 drivers from 11 different countries for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi around one of the fastest circuits on the UIM F1 H2O World Championship tour.
“We had the perfect package to grab pole position despite my less-than-perfect driving,” said the 52-year-old Chiappe. “Tomorrow is another day and I know it will be both my most important of my career but also the toughest with everyone else barking at me from behind.”
Starting next to Chiappe will be American driver Shaun Torrente of the Qatar Team who missed taking his second straight pole in less than seven days by .15 of a second—racing at a clip of 166.23 kph and a time of 45.48 seconds.
“We did our best believe me,” Torrente said. “I congratulate Philippe for his great run and will be looking to push him for the lead early on in the race. It will be fun—I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Promising rookie Erik Stark of Sweden will be starting his sixth career race from the third position. The Team Nautica driver ran a strong 45.53-second lap time in the best qualifying effort of his short career.
Leading Chiappe and Torrente by 10 and 11 points, respectively, in the drivers championship, Carella will begin in the fifth position behind Team Abu Dhabi’s Ahmed Al-Hameli.
Jimmy Shane (center, top) earned the trophy for the fastest average speed during today’s qualifying for the Oryx Cup in Qatar.
Shane Tops Unofficial Qualifying for Oryx Cup
Defending Oryx Cup champion Jimmy Shane and his Oh Boy! Oberto hydroplane topped the unofficial qualifying times when nine of the fastest boats on the planet took to Qatar’s Doha Bay at the start of the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship—the final round of the 2014 H1 Unlimited season—on Thursday afternoon.
The qualifying limit was reduced from an average speed of 130 mph to 120 mph because of the adverse water conditions, but Shane was the class of the field, recording the best average speed at 143.024 mph.
Graham Trucking driver J. Michael Kelly, Shane’s closest competitor for the 2014 national high points title, carded the second-fastest qualifying speed of 142.803 mph late in the session.
Cal Phipps fell foul of a fuel violation in the other Graham Trucking boat and was forced to go again out late in the afternoon, while the Spirit of Qatar driver Jean Theoret broke the bolts to the wing and the rear strut on his last run but set an impressive pace—a best lap of 134.010 mph—on his return to the sport after a five-year absence. Theoret hadn’t raced an Unlimited hydroplane since finishing fourth in the 2009 Oryx Cup at the helm of the Schumacher Racing/Miss Peters & May boat.
“I was a little nervous when I got back into the boat this morning,” Theoret admitted. “It has been five years. I had a good feeling from the start, but the water was rough out there in the testing.”
On Friday, drivers can carry out testing for up to two hours before the first two pairs of heats take place on Doha Bay.