In a historic return to racing in London, the second round of the 2018 Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship provided a dramatic conclusion to the Grand Prix of London at the Royal Victoria Dock in East London on Sunday.
Swesih driver Erik Stark (center) won the second race of the F1 H2O World Championship in London. Photo courtesy F1 H2O
The first race in the British capital in 33 years was yellow-flagged on two occasions, but the delays failed to prevent Erik Stark of the Maverick F1 Team from completing a start-to-finish victory and collecting 20 valuable championship points. Three-time world champ Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team shadowed the young Swede to the finish in second position and moved into a three-point world championship lead over Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi, who finished fourth in the race.
Chiappe’s French teammate Peter Morin rounded off the podium places in front of thousands of spectators in the heart of London. Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente of Florida (right, click image to enlarge) climbed from eighth to sixth place before colliding with two turn buoys on the 10th lap. The American driver, who won the season opened in Portugal, was disqualified to cap a disappointing weekend. Defending world champion Alex Carella of Victory Team crashed out of fourth position on lap 36 and only 10 of the original 18 entrants reached the chequered flag. Finland’s Sami Selio and Australian Grant Trask rounded off the top six.
Overcast and slightly windy conditions greeted teams and the decision was taken to use a rolling start instead of a static take-off from the pontoon before the drivers hit the 1.72-kilometer, three-pin course on the River Thames. Stark maintained his advantage over Chiappe, Carella and Morin through the opening lap, while Torrente climbed to seventh and Al-Qemzi stormed into ninth place from his qualifying position—13th. Morin found a way passed Carella to snatch third place and Torrente tried to make up ground from an outside line in slightly cleaner water. He managed to pass Erik Edin and snatch sixth place, as Stark held a 2.5-second lead over Chiappe through seven laps.
But the race was yellow-flagged on lap 10 when Torrente collided with two turn buoys and was disqualified. Neither Roms nor Bartek Marszalek made the start with engine issues.Action resumed on lap 16 and Stark held his line to stay in front of Chiappe, Morin and Cantando, with Carella slipping to fifth and Al-Qemzi holding eighth. Jonas Andersson also found a way passed the defending champion to hold fifth through 20 laps. Edin slipped down to ninth place with a damaged pickle fork, as Stark held a 2.52-second lead over Chiappe through 24 laps and Al-Qemzi maintained eighth.
Thani Al-Qemzi of Team Abu Dhabi worked his way into fourth place at the Grand Prix of London after qualifying in 13th position. Photo courtesy Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club
Grant Trask overtook Edin to snatch eighth position, but the leading seven drivers held station into lap 27 and there were no changes in the running order until Andersson succumbed to engine issues and retired on lap 29. His demise lifted Carella into fourth and Al-Qemzi into sixth place. Edin had also fallen by the wayside.
Stark led Chiappe by 3.1 seconds into lap 32, and Carella, who had been running with a broken pickle fork, overturned his Victory Team boat on lap 36 and forced a second yellow flag with 18 laps remaining. Only 10 boats remained in the race when action restarted on lap 44. Stark, Chiappe and Morin maintained their top three places, but Al-Qemzi snatched fourth place from Selio and began to pressurise Morin for the last podium place.
Stark was not to be denied, however, and the Maverick Team driver stayed ahead of Chiappe to seal a 3.3-second victory. Chiappe moved into the points lead with the second-place finish.
Racing action in the F1 H2O World Championship resumes at Évian-les-Baines in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France on June 29-July 1.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Torrente, Al-Qemzi Finish 1, 2 In F1 H2O Opener In Portugal
Team Nollet Wins 24 Hours Of Rouen, Team Abu Dhabi Battles Back To Second
Torrente To Race XCAT For Team Abu Dhabi
Carella Cruises To Fourth F1 H2O World Championship