Team Abu Dhabi enjoyed a perfect start to the 2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship on Sunday as Shaun Torrente won the 60-lap Grand Prix of France ahead of teammate Thani Al-Qemzi.
Torrente, world champion in 2018 and 2019, claimed a 10th career Grand Prix success when Team Sharjah’s Sami Selio dramatically came to a halt on the 37th lap after leading from pole position.
The two Abu Dhabi drivers had set off in second and third positions with the aim of piling the pressure on Selio. The Finnish two-time world champion was ultimately denied a first Grand Prix win since 2016 by mechanical problems.
It was a second successive one-two start to a F1H2O season by Team Abu Dhabi, following Al-Qemzi’s victory from Torrente in Italy last year.
The result underlined their status as overwhelming favorites for a fifth world team title, and suggested that the two teammates could go on to battle it out to decide this year’s individual F1H2O driver’s crown.
Peter Morin of the China CTIC Team took third place to become the first Frenchman to secure a podium finish in his home Grand Prix event.
With tens of thousands of spectators lining the banks of the Saone River circuit in Macon, Selio made a confident start in his pursuit of a 13th career Grand Prix win.
Portugal’s Duarte Benavente became the first race casualty when he went out with mechanical problems on the 17th lap, and 20 laps later Selio’s departure saw Torrente move into a lead which he never looked like surrendering.
Philippe Chiappe, one of only three drivers in F1H2O history to have claimed a hat trick of world titles, was another to endure frustration on the day as he plummeted down the field with a broken propeller on the 51st lap.
Next stop for the F1H2O World Championship is San Nazzaro, Italy, where back-to-back Grand Prix races take place on the Po River from July 16 to 17.
This has been a happy hunting ground for Team Abu Dhabi, who have regularly trained and tested there in recent times under Italian powerboat racing legend and team manager, Guido Cappellinni.
Al-Qemzi’s victory there last September came 15 years after he finished second in Italy to Cappellinni, who went on to capture one of his 10 world titles that year.
The vastly experienced Emirati driver, who now has 39 career podium finishes to his name as well as eight Grand Prix wins, still passionately believes he can secure a maiden world drivers’ title, 22 years after entering the F1H2O arena.
He enjoys a unique partnership with Torrente, and while the American would love to grab the world crown for a third time, no one would be happier if Al-Qemzi was to finally come through to take the honors, after five third place finishes, and two runners-up seasons.
From the start in France, the pair were pushing each other to try and slash Selio’s lead, a tactic which has paid off so many times in recent years.
Finnish rookie Alec Weckstrom finished fourth in Macon from Sweden’s reigning world champion, Jonas Andersson, with Norway’s Marit Stromoy completing the top six.