MACON VAL DE SAONE, France: Shaun Torrente and Thani Al-Qemzi are well placed to give Team Abu Dhabi a powerful start to the 2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship after a dramatic qualifying day at the Grand Prix of France on Saturday.
They will start Sunday’s opening powerboat race of the season from second and third positions, respectively, after Team Sharjah’s two-time world champion Sami Selio claimed pole position on the Saone River circuit in Macon.
Torrente and Al-Qemzi are strongly fancied to deliver a fifth consecutive world team title for the UAE capital and are also aiming for the individual drivers’ crown.
The hazardous nature of the three-stage qualifying process in F1H2O racing was underlined on Saturday when reigning world champion Jonas Andersson failed to reach the six-boat final stage shoot-out.
The result gave the Swede a huge task in the race, while Torrente and Al-Qemzi will have Selio in their sights from the start as they look to snatch victory from the flying Finn.
Torrente, world champion in 2018 and 2019, started the weekend in confident style, setting the fastest time in the previous day’s opening practice session as he put last year’s disappointing third-place finish behind him.
Al-Qemzi, who has even more reason not to look back after seeing his bid for a first world title fall short by a solitary point just over six months ago, is using every bit of his 22-year F1H2O experience to make his mark in France.
Just 53 seconds separated Selio and the two Team Abu Dhabi drivers in the qualifying shoot-out, and the stage is set for an intriguing battle for supremacy to launch the 2022 Grand Prix season.
The boats return to the Saone River circuit for a lunch time warm-up ahead of the Grand Prix of France, which has returned this weekend after a three-year gap.
From France, the championship moves to Italy next month for two back-to-back grand prix races at San Nazzaro, a familiar location for Team Abu Dhabi, who used it again for testing last week before moving on to Macon.
Local knowledge could prove valuable to Torrente and Al-Qemzi when the Grand Prix of Regione Emilia Romagna unfolds on the Po River on July 16, followed 24 hours later by the Grand Prix of Italy.