Al-Qemzi hits home run

Team Abu Dhabi driver flies flag for UAE in cap­i­tal as F1 H20 ti­tle race hots up ahead of fi­nale

Sport360 - - Powerboats - By David Cooper @Sport360 ✉ ed­i­to­[email protected]

Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi cre­ated a lit­tle piece of his­tory by be­com­ing the first Arab driver ever to win the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.

The Emi­rati 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.

Al-Qemzi’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 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 saw that he (Morin) stayed be­hind me and then I went very fast. In­shal­lah, 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 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 Stro­moy 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 out­fit 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 race 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.

Great­est show on surf: Thani Al-Qemzi is just three points be­hind team-mate Shaun Tor­rente head­ing into Shar­jah.

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