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F1H2O Teams Are Set For Showdown In Italy As Series Returns To Sardinia

A late addition to the 2022 Union Internationale Motonautique F1H2O World Championship season as the race was not 100-percent confirmed following the Italian Grand Prix races a few weeks ago, this weekend’s Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna in Olbia on the Italian island of Sardinia starts today with registration, inspections and practice, and includes qualifying sessions on Saturday in preparation for the final race on Sunday.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente took the victory in the season-opening race in France in June and hopes to do the same on Sunday in Sardinia. Photo courtesy Xavier Bertin/F1H2O

According to an F1H2O press release, the race—the fourth round of the championship—also marks F1H2O’s return to the Mediterranean island for the first time since American driver Scott Gillman, who now runs Gillman Racing, won the race in 2004.

Heading into the weekend, Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente currently holds a 17-point advantage over his teammate, Thani Al-Qemzi, in the points standings and a victory for the Florida-based driver in northeast Sardinia would put him in a commanding position with only December’s back-to-back racing finale in Sharjah, UAE.

Victories in France and at race one in San Nazzaro in Italy, coupled with a third place in the second race in San Nazzaro, have given Torrente the edge over Al-Qemzi, who finished second in races one and three. The consistency of the experienced Team Abu Dhabi duo has also given the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club-based operation a formidable lead in the team championship.

Still, indications from the last race weekend in Italy suggest that the outcome of the final three rounds of the year could be even harder to call.

“It’s the best start to a season I’ve ever had—there were 60 points available and I have 52, so that’s a pretty good start,” said Torrente, who stayed in Italy an extra day in late September to test and prepare for Olbia. “We just need to keep going and earn more points on Sunday. The feeling on the team is good. Our goal is to win every race.”

Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio showed in Italy that he has the pace to turn round his run of cruel luck. The flying Finn was fastest in free practice and qualified second for the last race behind Torrente. Two accidents side-lined the two-time world champion in Italy, however, but his Baba has now been repaired and Selio is raring to go.

Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandenberg is coming off his first F1H2O Grand Prix victory in San Nazzaro, Italy, at the end of September. Photo courtesy Vittorio Ubertone/F1H2O

While he has struggled to turn outright speed into race finishes, Selio’s teammate, Ferdinand Zandbergen, has been the revelation of the first half of the season. The Dutchman capitalized on a somewhat surprising pole position at round three and led from start-to-finish on the Po River to seal a first career F1H2O race victory and leap into fourth in the driver points standings.

“I was speechless after the pole position in Italy. Whether I won or not, my weekend could not have been any better,”

Zandbergen said. “Now it’s a case of keeping the momentum going. I will be aiming for another pole and another win.”

Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson and Kalle Viippo currently hold third and seventh positions and Andersson is well-placed to make a late challenge to defend his world title. The veteran trails Torrente by 21 points and Al-Qemzi by four and will need to build upon the second place he earned in race one at San Nazzaro. Viippo has been in the points at each of the three races and will be aiming to build upon those foundations this weekend.

Peter Morin and three-time World Champion Phillipe Chiappe have enjoyed mixed fortunes at the opening three races of the year. Morin finished on the podium in France but was disqualified from the second of the Italian races after struggling at the rear of the field when forced to change his boat before the race. He did, however, set the fastest lap in the third race. Technical issues blighted Chiappe in Italy and the former series pace-setter currently languishes in a surprising 12th in the points standings.

Alec Weckström has made an impressive start to his F1H2O career. He finished fifth in the series last year and currently holds sixth in the 2022 rankings. Benefiting from the experience of team manager and four-time world champion Scott Gillman, the 24-year-old Finn finished fourth and third at the opening two races, but was deprived of a finish at the third race because of electrical issues on his DAC.

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