SARDINIA: Team Abu Dhabi’s powerboating cousins Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi were on Sunday aiming to keep their team’s title hopes alive in the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship, taking place in Sardinia.
While Sweden’s Jonas Andersson can clinch the drivers’ crown with victory in the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy after securing pole position, the two Emiratis are still battling to deliver a sixth successive team triumph to the UAE capital.
Their case was helped when mechanical problems put Finn Sami Selio out of action in Saturday’s revamped qualifying phase, damaging the challenge of the Sharjah Team sandwiched between Andersson’s leading Team Sweden, and the Abu Dhabi duo in third place.
Andersson won the first of the day’s two group sprint races that have been introduced as part of an all-new Grand Prix qualifying format, dominating the 20 laps ahead of his two chief title rivals, Victory Team’s Erik Stark, and Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi, pole position setter and Grand Prix winner in Sardinia last year, finished in fifth place.
Italian Alberto Comparato then secured the second group sprint race ahead of Frenchman Peter Morin and Finnish racer Filip Roms, with Rashed Al-Qemzi taking fourth place.
The final Grand Prix qualifying order, including pole position, was initially thrown into confusion because of a yellow flag toward the end of the first sprint race which affected the finishing times.
But Andersson was later named in pole position with the fastest lap time from the two sprint races, ahead of Comparato, Stark, Morin, and Zandbergen. Rashed Al-Qemzi qualified in seventh spot, with his cousin in ninth.
After securing his fourth F2 world title in Portugal earlier this month and signing off with another Grand Prix win last weekend, Rashed Al-Qemzi has stepped up again to partner his vastly experienced relative and is clearly ready for a fresh challenge.
The move from F2 to the F1H2O World Championship is a significant one, particularly when it comes to handling the intense pressure generated at the sharp end of qualifying and race action, and a crucial final round to follow in Sharjah in December.
Few understand that better than Team Abu Dhabi manager Guido Cappellini, who fought his way to 10 F1H2O drivers’ titles, and is mentoring the younger Al-Qemzi to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious cousin.
Rashed has made only fleeting F1H2O appearances since his debut in Sharjah in 2016. But he settled quickly into the rapid pace of things in Sardinia, recording the fastest time in Friday’s Group B free practice session after championship leader Andersson had set the pace in Group A.
The Emirati looked to have produced a repeat performance in Group B qualifying, before his fastest lap was ruled out for an infringement, and he eventually finished third to Comparato and Morin.