F1 Team Abu Dhabi's Al-Qemzi becomes first Arab in history to win Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi


Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, UAE – December 6-8


· Team Abu Dhabi confirms third UIM F1 H2O Teams’ Championship in four years
· Torrente maintains series lead after finishing sixth; engine woes for Stark
· Frenchman Peter Morin takes second place; third for Finland’s Sami Selio

ABU DHABI (UAE): Saturday, December 8: Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi created a little piece of history by becoming the first Emirati driver ever to win the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi. The 39-year-old snatched the lead on the first lap and held off a fierce challenge from Frenchman Peter Morin to seal the win by 0.91 seconds at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Saturday afternoon.

The Emirati’s first win in the UIM F1 H2O World Championship since Sharjah in 2012 also catapulted the local star into second place in the World Championship standings – three points behind team-mate Shaun Torrente – and they will lock horns with Erik Stark to decide the outcome of the championship next weekend in Sharjah.

An overwhelmed Al-Qemzi, shrouded by VIPs, well-wishers and media in the pits, said: “I made a good start and I went far away from everyone and I keep a little bit away. I kept my line. My boat was strong. I felt relaxed and I pushed hard from that. The last five laps, I see that he (Morin) stay behind me and then I go very fast. Insha’allah, next week I do the same. This is my country. I have always been nervous here and never had any favours and now I made it. This is a fantastic win for the whole team. We are all so happy.”

Torrente finished the race in a subdued sixth position, but technical issues and a non-finish for Stark after 29 laps means that Torrente can seal the title if he wins the last race of the year, as can Al-Qemzi! Stark will be relying on the performance of his team-mate in what promises to be a white hot finale to a frenetic season.

With the excitement in the pits and paddock area after the sensational home win, Morin’s gutsy second place went virtually unnoticed, while Finland’s Sami Selio bounced back from a miserable season to claim third place for the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team. Marit Strømøy of the Emirates Racing Team finished fourth and Italian veteran Francesco Cantando was a fine fifth.

Team Abu Dhabi also confirmed a third UIM F1 H2O Teams’ Championship title in four seasons, after winning the prestigious competition in 2015 and 2017. The success was also the third Teams’ title for the team operating out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) under the management of Salem Al-Remeithi, board member and general manager of the ADIMSC, and 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini.

Cappellini said: “After 18 years, Thani has won the race in our home. It has been an important day because we have won the Teams’ World Championship. The Drivers’ Championship is not closed. Now in Sharjah it will be one incredible game for our three drivers. The first goal today was to win the Teams’ Championship and now we can focus on next weekend.”

Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi suffered a setback to his F4 Trophy hopes with a disappointing seventh place in the second race. Frenchman Tom Chiappe secured a second win of the weekend to snatch the joint championship lead with Germany’s Max Stilz. England’s Sam Whittle moved up to third in the standings, while Al-Mehairbi now heads to the final round in fourth place, seven points behind the joint leaders.

Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC.

Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

With Sutthipan Sookbuangbon still in Thailand and Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli missing the 48-lap race on medical grounds after his accident on Friday, 17 boats lined up at the start pontoon. Stark, Al-Qemzi and Torrente were in pole, third and sixth for the host team and Strømøy was sandwiched between the two front-running Team Abu Dhabi boats.

The frantic dash to the commitment buoy and the opening couple of turns would be absolutely critical to the outcome of the race with the pole sitter winning each of the five races so far this season.

Stark made a poor start and ceded the lead to Strømøy and second place to Al-Qemzi, but the Norwegian struggled through the opening turn and Al-Qemzi snatched the lead from Morin, Stark, a rampant Selio, Strømøy and Cantando at the end of lap one. Torrente held seventh place, but Erik Edin spun after starting fifth off the pontoon and fell to 15th.

Al-Qemzi extended his advantage to 5.29 seconds into lap four and continued to fend off Morin, Stark and Selio over the next few laps. All 17 starters were still running into lap nine, where Al-Qemzi held a lead of 3.30 seconds over Morin and Torrente was still catching the spray of sixth-placed Cantando.

The leaders began to catch and overtake the tail-enders but there were no changes on the leader board and Al-Qemzi headed Morin by 4.47sec into lap 13 with Stark in third and Torrente in seventh. But Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson pulled to a stand still with engine issues, lost his eighth place and joined team-mate Edin as the first retirements.

Heading into lap 20, Al-Qemzi led Morin by 2.67 seconds and Stark, Selio and Strømøy rounded off the top five, but Torrente could find no way to pass sixth-placed Cantando. There were no changes at halfway and Al-Qemzi remained on course to become the first Arab ever to win the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, although Morin had closed to within 2.23 seconds.

The 15-boat procession continued through the next few laps and an inspired Al-Qemzi continued to fend off the Morin challenge and maintain his advantage. But Stark dramatically pulled off the race course on lap 30 with technical issues and Selio was promoted to third place. The Swede’s demise also lifted Torrente into sixth and boosted his title hopes, as four-time World Champion Alex Carella also spluttered to a stop to wrap up a miserable weekend for the Victory Team.

Into lap 36 and Al-Qemzi led Morin by 3.15 seconds with Selio a distant third, Strømøy a hard-charging fourth, Cantando in fifth and Torrente in sixth place. There were no changes to the running order with eight laps remaining and Al-Qemzi was able to retain his composure and make his own little piece of history, much to the delight of Team Abu Dhabi, the ADIMSC and the local crowd.

Morin confirmed second place, Selio claimed his first podium of a miserable season and Strømøy finished fourth, ahead of Cantando, Torrente, Bartek Marszalek, Philippe Chiappe, Cédric Deguisne and Filip Roms.

Free practice 2

The final practice session on Saturday morning marked the last opportunity for teams to arrive at the optimum set-up for the race and try out propeller choices and shakedown the boats for the last time. Times were largely irrelevant, but Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson topped the standings for much of the session with a 44.11sec lap and had pole-sitting Erik Stark and Marit Strømøy trailing in his wake entering the final 15 minutes.

Al-Qemzi left it late to eventually top the times with a confidence-boosting run of 43.90sec that put Andersson down to second and Stark to third. Strømøy, Peter Morin and Alex Carella rounded off the top six, as Shaun Torrente kept his powder dry for the afternoon with seventh place.

F4 Trophy – race 2

Ten boats lined up for the morning’s practice session and it was Frenchman Tom Chiappe, the winner of race one, who clocked the quickest lap of 1min 02.28sec to edge Alexander Lindholm by 1/100ths of a second.

The two drivers were at the top of the leader board early in the time trials as well, with Lindholm leading the way with a run of 1min 02.11sec at the halfway point. Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi and Rashed Al-Remeithi were fifth and eighth after Rudolf Mihaldinecz missed out on the session with technical issues sustained in the practice session.

Chiappe went on to claim pole position for the race with a late fast lap of 1min 02.03sec and pipped Lindholm, Bingchen Wu and Ahmed Al-Fahim to the bragging rights. Al-Mehairbi and Al-Remeithi qualified in sixth and ninth.

Lindholm pulled away from the original green flag before the boats were pulled back again for a restart. The Finn was on top again at the second attempt and he gradually began to pull away from Chiappe, Sam Whittle and Al-Fahim. Al-Mehairbi slipped down to ninth and Al-Remeithi held 10th place.

The Team Amaravati driver maintained a 4.79-second advantage through five laps and the pursuing nine boats held station heading into laps, six and seven until Rudolf Mihaldinecz hit trouble and slipped out of the running, his demise lifting Al-Mehairbi and Al-Remeithi into seventh and ninth.

After a short yellow flag delay because of a loose turn buoy, action recommenced and Chiappe managed to snatch the lead and stamp his authority on proceedings. Whittle and Al-Fahim trailed in his wake and Lindholm slipped to fourth.

The Frenchman held to through the remaining laps - and a late yellow flag because there were balloons on the course - to seal his second race win of the weekend and leap into serious contention for the title with a first aggregate race victory. Whittle did his title hopes no harm at all with second place and Al-Fahim filled the final podium place. Max Stilz maintained his title push with fifth, but seventh place for Al-Mehairbi dented his title hopes, as Al-Remeithi finished ninth.

2018 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi – result:
1. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48 laps
2. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team @0.91sec
3. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team @31.43sec
4. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team @32.69sec
5. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team @36.29sec
6. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi @46.27sec
7. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team L1
8. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Tea L1
9. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team L3
10. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team L4
11. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team L4
Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team DNF
Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi DNF
Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team DNF
Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team DNF
Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati DNF
Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati DNF
Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team DNS
Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team DNS

2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – standings after round 6:
1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 77pts
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 74pts
3. Erik Stark (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 65pts
4. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 54pts
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 37pts
6. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 35pts
7. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 19pts
8. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 18pts
8. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 18pts
10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 17pts
11. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 14pts
12. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 9pts
13. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 8pts
14. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
14. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
14. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 5pts
18. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 2pts
19. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team 1pt

2018 F4 Trophy – positions after race 10:
1. Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 105pts
1. Max Stilz (DEU) Blaze Performance 105pts
3. Sam Whittle (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 100pts
4. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 98pts
5. Ahmed Al-Fahim (UAE) Victory Team 69pts
6. Alexander Lindholm (FIN) Team Amaravati 53pts
7. Wu Bingchen (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 49pts
8. Pedro Fortuna (PRT) Team Sweden 35pts
9. Ben Jelf (GBR) Team Amaravati 27pts
10. Rudolf Mihaldinecz (HUN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 22pts
11. Xavier Autard (FRA) Maverick Racing 21pts
12. Quentin Dailly (FRA) Maverick Racing 17pts
13. Camille Broutechoux (FRA) Maverick Racing 8pts
14. Ali Allanjawi (UAE) Victory Team 7pts
14. Joris Colleret (FRA) Maverick Racing 7pts
16. Rashed Al-Remeithi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 6pts
17. Louise Vella (AUS) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 5pts
18. Ian Gonsalves (GUY) Maverick Racing 3pts


For further media information and information about Team Abu Dhabi:
Please contact: Khalid Al Saadi, Media Incharge, Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, P.O. Box 45656, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Mobile Telephone: + 971 50 768 6761, E-mail: alsaadi@adimsc.ae.


Date issued: 08/12/2018

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