Florida’s Shaun Torrente—the two-time defending F1H2O world champion—is looking forward to the conclusion of what’s been an extremely busy month between joining forces once again with the talented Team Abu Dhabi for the return of the Union Internationale Motonautique F1H2O World Championship and competing Stateside in the Super Stock class with his fellow Floridian Eric Belisle.
World champion racer Shaun Torrente is ready to compete in this weekend’s Clearwater Grand Prix alongside his Super Stock-class teammate Eric Belisle. Photo by Cole McGowan
The full-time racer who also owns and operates Shaun Torrente Racing, a manufacturer of high-performance marine outboard brackets and other hardware, recently finished second behind his Team Abu Dhabi stablemate, Thani Al Qemzi, in the opening round of the F1H2O series in San Nazzaro, Italy. A few days prior, Torrente was in St. Petersburg, Fla., throttling the CMR Roofing Super Stock boat with teammate Eric Belisle, in which the Southwest Florida-based duo took the win, closing in on first place in the championship standings.
Now Torrente and Belisle are back in Super Stock-class preparation mode for this weekend’s Race World Offshore Clearwater Grand Prix, and—after a whirlwind month of transatlantic and domestic travel—Torrente, who was featured in a recent episode of Speed On The Water’s In The Lead, answered a few questions for speedonthewater.com about his recent journeys.
How difficult was it to manage the preparation and testing that went into each race over the last few weeks?
I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment with the way things are with myself, my family and our racing life. To have such a wonderful team to support me in Formula 1 is amazing and humbling. I consider it a great responsibility because those guys work so hard to give me a good boat. The racing overseas for F1 is more stressful because the boat has already been prepared, whereas the preparation in the U.S. for SuperStock is more stressful than in F1 because here it’s my guys and my team putting the boat together. I aspire to have our team here in the U.S. reach the level of professionalism that Abu Dhabi team manager Guido Cappellini has engrained into the Abu Dhabi operation.
Torrente, left, enjoyed seeing his teammate, Thani Al Qemzi, atop the podium in Italy a couple of weeks ago. Photo by Vittorio Ubertone/F1H2O
Can you elaborate on your emotional post-European Grand Prix praise of teammate Thani Al Qemzi?
I have a lot of pride and ownership for the team’s success, not just my own. It’s my responsibility to make sure both boats run great, so it means a lot because (Thani) hasn’t been in the championship hunt yet and it makes me happy to see that. Considering all things of me going to Team Abu Dhabi, Thani has been the biggest surprise to me, because I didn’t know him well prior to joining the team and his always-smiling, always-positive spirit is really enjoyable—he’s just a really good dude. Over the last two and a half seasons he’s grown to trust me, which I deeply value. He takes my feedback as honesty with positive intent and trying to help him, not me trying to criticize him. I wouldn’t be world champion if he wasn’t my teammate because of how supportive he is, and I think that’s important to note. In San Nazzaro, it was my job to get second and support his race lead.
Were you happy with your performance in San Nazzaro?
I had a terrible start because the engine did not fire clean—we went with rich fuel for the race to make the engine live because the fuel isn’t great. From there, it was all about finding a clean line behind Sami Seliö who is a very good driver. On the restart, following a yellow flag, I was next to Sami and managed to get by him when the green flag came out. I felt like I was going to catch him either way, but the restart helped a lot.
The two-time defending F1H2O world champion was grateful to get back in the cockpit after close to two years off the course because of the pandemic. Photo by Vittorio Ubertone/F1H2O.
How hard is it to compartmentalize your emotions between the travel, work-life balance and trying to focus on a race?
It’s really difficult—it’s a muscle and you build it up over time. Through the peaks and valleys of my career, I might’ve had success in racing, but things at home and in business may not be as positive. One thing I love so much about racing F1 is that it’s the only time I have one singular job that day—make my boat go fast around six buoys. I don’t have anyone texting me or calling me. They know what I’m doing. It’s more complicated in Super Stock because I’m also the point person for the team, so everything on the team management side runs through me. In F1, it’s just props, data and boat in my head—everything else is taken care of. It’s about getting in a mode—F1 is so difficult. There are a lot of times where I’m sitting in the boat, and have this knot in my stomach. It’s not a fear of getting hurt or crashing, it’s a fear of failing or not accomplishing what I’m there to accomplish.
Does it feel like there’s a lot of pressure to perform constantly and consistently?
In a way, there’s a responsibility I have to my own legacy for everyone else. I told my wife, Flavia, that it’s strange to walk around and have people stare at you at a race. It’s unnerving and weird. I can’t go anywhere [at an F1 race] without people there asking me to sign something or take a photo—it’s a tremendous amount of pressure. If I’m not in first place it’s misery. People build me up in a way that I don’t. I qualified fourth at the European Grand Prix and people asked me what happened. It’s not like I qualified 10th or worse. Despite that, it’s part of why I want to keep racing—I’ve never been in more control than I am now. After the start, I am calmer than I’ve ever been. I’m always thinking about how I’m moving forward and what I need to do to extract lap time and look at the race in a strategic way.
“I’ve never been in more control than I am now,” Torrente said.
Finally, what are your thought headed into this weekend’s Clearwater Grand Prix?
We’re 13 points behind Performance Boat Center after dropping each of our lowest-scoring races, after making up 11 points in St. Pete. Given the layout of the Clearwater course, I think our setup is going to be mainly dictated by temperature and sea conditions. We have a rough water setup now so I know we can compete with that, which brings more boats into play.
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