American hopeful Shaun Torrente did everything he could today in his bid to win the world title with a superb victory in the Union International Motonautique F1 H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah, but it was the man who followed him across the finish line, Philippe Chiappe, who is the 2016 F1H2O world champion, a title he has earned three years in a row.
Floridian Shaun Torrente won the race to give Victory Team its first ever F1 H2O race win. Photos courtesy F1 H2O
Coming into the race in Sharjah, UAE, Torrente, who hails from Florida, was a long shot to leapfrog Chiappe in the championship standings. Yet he still needed to finish strong in the season clincher as not to drop in the standings. The end result left Torrente in the much-deserved runners-up slot in the driver’s championship and it gave the Dubai-based Victory Team its first Grand Prix win in only its second season of F1 H2O competition.
In the overall team championship Victory Team was third behind Chiappe’s CTIC F1 Shenzhen China team and the Mad-Croc Baba Racing team.
The pressure in front or behind him didn’t seem to phase Chiappe throughout the 45-lap race as he delivered a true champions’ drive to hold off the challenge of the duo behind him and take his sixth podium of the year en route to becoming only the third driver in the 33-year history of the sport to win a hat-trick of world championships.
Philippe Chiappe conservatively finished the race in the runner-up position to win his third consecutive F1 H2O world championship.
Chiappe made a blistering start to jump pole-sitter Jonas Andersson, with Torrente matching the move and pressing the race leader as the two edged away from the chasing pack of Andersson, Erik Stark, Bartek Marszalek and Alex Carella.
On lap 14, the yellow flag was raised when Chiappe’s teammate Xiong Ziwei barrel-rolled out of the race. The boats were held for five laps and then released with Torrente making an immediate move to pass Chiappe, and then proceeded to disappear off into the distance knowing that nothing less than a win would give him any hope of the title should Chiappe breakdown.
Finland’s Sami Selio joined the chase and passed Carella on lap 20 only to allow the Italian driver to take back the place a lap later. Then on lap 23, Stark faltered and lost ground, slipping to fifth with Carella now leading the chase to overhaul Chiappe and Andersson, with Selio pressing frantically.
Carella and Selio pushed hard and passed Andersson on lap 28 and closed in on the champion-elect. Out front, Torrente stretched his lead, going on to take the checkered flag and his maiden win for Victory Team by 25 seconds.
Carella looked set for third place but on lap 42 he pulled to the inside of the circuit and retired to compound a frustrating afternoon for Team Abu Dhabi since his teammates retired earlier in the race. Thani Al Qamzi went out on lap 31 and F1 H2O debutant Rashed Al Qamzi left on lap 11.
Selio was the beneficiary, taking his fourth podium of the year and sealing third place in the driver’s championship, with Andersson heroically bringing the boat he spectacularly crashed out of qualifying in fourth ahead of Stark.
One of the drives of the day belonged to Australian newcomer Grant Trask, who from P12 off the pontoon at the start fought his way through a world-class field of driver’s to take sixth and claim five world championship points in just his second Grand Prix.
Filip Roms ended his year in the points in seventh ahead Duarte Benavente, one of only two drivers to have scored points in all races this year, with Marit Stromoy fighting her way back from P16 to take ninth a head of Nadir bin Hendi.
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