Tuesday, August 22: This year’s UIM F1H2O World Championship has not gone at all to plan for Team Abu Dhabi, which has been the dominant force in the top echelon of world power boat racing for several seasons.
Last year, the team operating out of the Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club (ADMSC) earned a clean sweep of all the major awards. American racer Shaun Torrente pipped Jonas Andersson to his third world title in dramatic circumstances at the final race, the Florida driver won the F1H2O Pole Position Trophy by 12 points, Team Abu Dhabi completely dominated the Teams’ Championship (winning by 43 points) and Thani Al-Qamzi pipped Torrente and Andersson to the F1H2O Fast Lap Trophy.
Despite intensive testing and the expertise of team manager Guido Cappellini, the record-breaking 10-time World Champion, and his knowledge of boat design and race craft, poor judgements, misfortune and a little bad luck have gone against the team after the opening three rounds of this season.
A first visit to the Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia on spectacular Lake Toba promised much for both Torrente and Al-Qamzi, but bad weather interrupted the normal race timetable and a one-lap penalty for jump starting the lights from a start position of two eventually pushed Torrente down to a disappointing ninth place. Al-Qamzi climbed through the field from ninth to score points for fifth.
China was included in the calendar for the first time since the Covid-19 travel restrictions and the city of Zhengzhou hosted round two of the series on the Yellow River. Personal reasons kept Al-Qamzi away for the weekend and his place alongside Torrente was taken by Rashed Al-Qamzi, a multiple winner of the UIM F2 World Championship and a talented replacement for the Emirati veteran.
Torrente initially qualified second behind Andersson, with Al-Qamzi missing out on Q3 in seventh, but the American was deemed to have encroached on Sami Seliö’s line in the final minutes of Q3 and the times were adjusted with Andersson handed pole position and Peter Morin given second place when Torrente’s and Seliö’s fastest times were cancelled. Torrente duly lined up for the race in fourth place but he was no match for a flying Andersson, who took a start-to-finish victory and a two-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship. Torrente finished a distant second and Al-Qamzi scored points for seventh.
Round three in France was held on a narrow course on the River Saône in Mâcon and Torrente claimed a dramatic last gasp pole position from Andersson after a pulsating BRM Qualifying session. A returning Thani Al-Qamzi qualified outside the points but it looked as though Team Abu Dhabi’s fortunes had turned.
But Torrente’s horror start to the season continued when he was disqualified for a course infringement after missing a turn buoy. Andersson went on to win the yellow-flag interrupted race and Al-Qamzi confirmed the final place on the podium with a hard-earned third.
After the race. Torrente was issued a yellow card by UIM officials and will now miss the fourth round of the series, the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy in Olbia on September 29th-October 1st.
That decision by the sport’s governing body initially rocked Team Abu Dhabi but was accepted in good faith and the team must now regroup before the trip to Olbia, with Rashed Al-Qamzi again likely to step up to join his cousin Thani. The 31-year-old’s confidence is sure to be high after he won the opening round of the UIM F2 World Championship in Lithuania recently.
But what of Team Abu Dhabi? With two races to go in Sardinia and Sharjah, Thani Al-Qamzi holds fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, albeit 24 points behind runaway leader Andersson. With Torrente missing round four, a title bid is over this season for the American: he holds seventh in the rankings and is already 26 points adrift.
Retaining the UIM F1H2O Pole Position Trophy is still possible for the American, however. He leads Andersson by two points and is well clear of third-placed Morin. A poor BRM Qualifying session for Andersson in Sardinia could leave the door open for Torrente to prevail in the UAE in December.
The biggest disappointment for Team Abu Dhabi is the current situation in the UIM F1H2O Teams’ Championship. Team Sweden (45 points) has a three-point cushion over the Sharjah Team and a five-point lead over Team Abu Dhabi. With Torrente absent in Sardinia, both the Al-Qamzis will need to step up to the plate if the ADMSC-based team is to stand any chance of retaining the title it has won six times in the last seven seasons of racing (2015, 2017- 2019 and 2021-2022).