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
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.