Thanks to a start-to-finish victory in Sunday’s gripping Grand Prix of India on the Krishna River in Amaravati, Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente replaced teammate Thani Al-Qemzi at the top of the Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O World Championship points standings.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente (6) passed his teammate, Thani Al-Qemzi (5), for the lead in the F1 H2O World Championship points standings with a victory at the Grand Prix of India on Sunday. Photos courtesy Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club
Al-Qemzi led the championship by just one point heading into the weekend, but the Emirati suffered a major setback when he was forced to withdraw with engine issues after five laps. Team Abu Dhabi’s third driver, Erik Stark, maintained second place in the championship standings, but a third-place finish for the Swede behind race runner-up Marit Strømøy of the Emirates Racing Team means that Stark now trails his American teammate Torrente by seven points with two races remaining.
Torrente, Strømøy and Stark were the class of the field that suffered a high rate of attrition on the punishing Indian river course. Three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team all but lost his chance of regaining the title after a start lap collision and defending champion Alex Carella of the Victory Team retired at the start with engine issues.
The first race to be held in the country since 2004 did not disappoint in the excitement stakes and Chiappe’s teammate Peter Morin finished fourth overall with Italian veteran Francesco Cantando rounding off the top five. The result also enabled Team Abu Dhabi, which is run out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, to extend its lead over the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team to 53 points.
“This is a great result for me and the team again with a 1-3 this time out,” said Torrente, who claimed his third victory of the season after successes in Portugal and China. “Now I am at the top of the championship and that is a position I want to stay in until the end of the last race in Sharjah.”
To start the race, Torrente, Stark and Al-Qemzi lined up in pole, third and fourth positions for the fifth round of what is developing into an exciting F1 H2O World Championship.
A clean run out to the opening turn buoy was a long one and was crucial at the start of the 44-lap race on the 2.125-km course. Hot, humid conditions and large numbers of spectators were the order of the day and Torrente made a superb start and held his line through the opening corner until a yellow flag was raised when Carella, a four-time world champion, suffered an engine issue and Chiappe was sidelined after a collision with Duarte Benavente that also marked the end of the race for the veteran Portuguese driver. Strømøy had struggled away from the start and lost her second place to Stark, but the yellow flag situation played into her hands somewhat when action resumed on lap four and she was reinstated in second.
Torrente maintained his advantage after the restart and Strømøy managed to hold off a fierce challenge from an airborne Stark to defend her second place in dramatic fashion. Championship leader Al-Qemzi plummeted down the leader board from fourth to 14th before withdrawing with engine issues, as Jonas Andersson and Morin rounded off the top five heading into lap eight.
Torrente’s lead over Strømøy climbed to 3.19 seconds through lap 11, but the Norwegian was still coming under pressure from Stark, as fourth-placed Andersson began to pull clear of Morin, Francesco Cantando and Ahmed Al-Hameli. Grant Trask was the next to fall by the wayside with engine issues after 13 laps.
Torrente maintained a 3.42-second lead through lap 16 as the leading seven boats held station and Bartek Marszalek, Erik Edin and Filip Roms rounded off the top 10. The high-speed procession continued into lap 25 and Torrente headed into the 26th tour with a lead of 4.03 seconds. Stark continued to pressure Strømøy for second place, but Marszalek had fallen by the wayside with a mechanical problem after 23 laps and Frenchman Cédric Deguisne lost 10th place soon afterwards.
The gap at the top began to narrow as the race headed into the remaining 10 laps. Torrente led by 1.78 seconds and Stark was a further 1.14 seconds behind. Andersson ground to a halt with his own mechanical issues on lap 34 and lost out on a possible fourth position. The Team Amaravati driver’s place was taken by Morin, as Cantando, Al-Hameli, Edin and Roms rounded off the top eight until Al-Hameli slipped down to eighth place.
The top three held station into lap 40 and Morin was a distant fourth, but there were no changes to the leader board over the remaining four laps and Torrente held on to claim victory over Strømøy by 2.17 seconds and snatched the lead in the overall standings. Stark kept up the pressure on his teammate with the final podium place.
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