According to a press release from the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club following today’s conclusion of the prestigious 24 Hours of Rouen endurance race on the River Seine in Northern France, Team Abu Dhabi 6 fought back from seventh place to eventually finish behind the overall winner, Team Nollet by New Star 20.
Team Abu Dhabi put in a solid effort on the River Seine in the 55th edition of the 24 Hours of Rouen. Photos courtesy ADIMSC
With the weather improving somewhat for the second session of a race that started seven hours late on Monday because of appalling conditions, Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi, Rashed Al-Tayer and American Shaun Torrente overcame several niggling technical issues, a costly eight-lap penalty for turn buoy violations and a late scare with fuel levels to finish second overall in the topsy-turvy endurance race that’s been happening for 55 years.
Crewed by the all-Russian team of Roman and Dmitry Vandyshev and Andrey Paniushkin, Team Nollet by New Star 20 finished 20 laps ahead of Team Abu Dhabi when the shortened two-session 17-hour race came to a conclusion. Team Nollet by New Star 1, crewed by three-time F1 H2O world champion Philippe Chiappe, Peter and Nelson Morin and Russian driver Konstantin Ustinov, led until the end of the first session, despite flipping the boat in the dark near the end of the stint. It took much longer than anticipated to make repairs the following morning before they could restart and the crew reached the finish in fifth position. The Touax Pegase Racing Team rounded off the podium positions in a Moore hull and Team Marine Inshore – Loutz took fourth overall.
Team Abu Dhabi’s challenge suffered lap penalties during the first session for turn buoy violations and debris wrapped around the propeller in fading light and then two prop shaft failures and a broken compressor in the last few hours of the second session on the 3.8-km course.
“Everyone worked hard in a very difficult race in demanding conditions,” said Salem Al-Remeithi, general manager of ADIMSC. “We obviously wanted to finish first, but this is a race of endurance and we overcame several obstacles to finish second.”
Team Abu Dhabi finished in second, 20 laps behind the winners—Team Nollet by New Star 20.
Torrente, who races for the team in F1 H2O and XCAT, was proud of his team’s finish.
“Rashed Al-Tayer did a great job in the final stint in managing the fuel and just going fast enough to stay in front of the number eight boat,” Torrente said. “We only had one penalty all race. We are happy with the outcome. Now we will go to Poland and try to win the world championship in July.”
Racing eventually got underway at 5 p.m. on Monday, seven hours later than planned because of inclement weather conditions. The early minutes developed into a two-way tussle between Chiappe’s Nollet-New Star entry and Team Abu Dhabi, and after 40 minutes, both crews had completed 21 laps and the French boat was running 2.962 seconds in front of the entry from the ADIMSC.
Only Team Nollet by New Star 1 and Team Abu Dhabi were on the same lap at the two-hour mark and the gap was just 5.24 seconds after 68 laps of the course, but Thani Al-Qemzi was penalized for hitting a turn buoy in the third hour and Team Abu Dhabi slipped down to sixth position with Xtrem Racing in second, five laps behind the leaders. The Touax Pegase Racing Team was up to third place.
There were further woes for Team Abu Dhabi in the fourth hour of the race when the DAC collected some debris around the propeller and had to be towed back to the pits. Team Nollet by New Star 1 duly completed 142 laps and was running 12 tours in front of Xtrem Racing. Team Abu Dhabi was down in seventh.
“We picked up some cloth or some upholstery from a couch and it stopped the engine,” Torrente explained. “It wrapped around the prop at the farthest possible place from the pits and we had to get towed in and lost 25 laps. Thani hit or missed two buoys and that was another eight laps of penalties. Rashed (Al-Qemzi) and Rashed (Al-Tayer) were recovering slowly and I took over for the last one and a half hours of the session.”
Team Abu Dhabi began to close in on their rivals in the dark and a sterling fight back by the team enabled the DAC to finish session one in third position, 32 laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 1 and nine behind Team Nollet by New Star 20. Team Marine Inshore 28 were fourth and Xtrem Racing rounded off the top five. But drama had also affected the leading duo.
“I guess we were in a pretty good spot at the end of the night session,” Torrente said. “There were a lot of logs in the river and I hit one about seven or eight laps into the stint. I did a little damage and kept going but it was an ill-handling boat. The 20 boat hit the same log I hit and went in to change the gear case. He couldn’t do that so he was waiting until the morning to change it. The 1 boat, with 13 minutes to go, blew over. They had a lot of work to do in the morning.”
While Team Nollet worked on its damaged boats before the start of the second session, Team Abu Dhabi changed the gear casing and began a challenge for the outright lead. By the end of the 10th hour, Team Abu Dhabi was up to second position and running a mere nine laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 20 after repairs to the leading Team Nollet 1 boat had taken a lot longer than anticipated. It had not ventured out on to the water at the end of the first hour and was down in fifth place. The leading 20 boat had completed 68 laps since the resumption and Team Abu Dhabi was three laps behind.
The Abu Dhabi crew broke down soon afterwards with a prop shaft issue and had to be towed back to the pits and this opened the door for Team Marine Inshore and Touax Pegase Racing Team to snatch second and third places. The 1 boat was also back on the water in fifth place, but Team Abu Dhabi was now 35 laps behind the leaders.
Team Abu Dhabi continued to press on and the team regained second position behind Team Nollet by New Star 20, although they remained 34 laps behind the leaders at 11.30 hours. With three hours to go, the gap was down to 33 laps with Touax Pegase a further 16 adrift and the Team Nollet 1 boat 52 laps adrift in fifth.
The gap remained constant until further technical woes befell the Team Abu Dhabi DAC.
“We were pushing for the win in the morning and then we broke two prop shafts within one hour,” Torrente said. “We had to change those and fell back to fourth and climbed back to second. I had about 10 minutes to go in my last session and then the compressor failed. I was able to drive it back. We changed the compressor and the boat got going again.
“We were still in second place, seven laps up on third,” he continued. “Luckily we had a decent margin, but we could not afford any problems to the finish. Because of the breakdown, Rashed Al-Tayer was supposed to be out in the boat and then Rashed Al-Qemzi, after me, to race one hour each, but we could not afford to stop for the driver change and thought we could make it to the end on fuel. It was a case of monitoring it carefully to the finish.”
With 39 minutes to run, Team Nollet by New Star 20’s lead had dropped to 27 laps, as Al-Tayer managed to sneak through into a narrow lead over Touax Pegase. But the leading boat was back in the water within a few minutes and rejoined the race with a 24-lap lead and 32 minutes remaining. Team Abu Dhabi had only 30 litres of fuel left for the remaining 25 minutes of the race and nails were biting in the team camp, despite the telemetry suggesting that it would be enough to see out the race. “It was going to be mighty close because you have to cross the finish line by your own power or you get nothing,” Torrente explained.
There were no late dramas and Team Abu Dhabi eventually reached the chequered flag 20 laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 20 to bring another thrilling Rouen 24 Hour race to a close on the River Seine. But Xtrem Racing 26 crashed while in ninth place in the final minutes.