Shaun Torrente’s title defence got off to the perfect start after taking his third successive pole position in Portimao, posting his best lap of 42.58s around the 1.937km Arade River circuit on the second of his two runs in the top-six shootout, in a dramatic afternoon in Rebellion Official Qualifying.
“It was a pretty hectic qualifying for sure, but this is where it counts and where you need to deliver,” said Torrente, who tomorrow will be looking to win the Grand Prix of Portugal for the second year in a row. “Q2 was always going to be a fight, it really was just so tight with just 0.45s splitting the top six and then in the shootout I pulled out the lap I needed on the first run, but it was still slower than last year because of the conditions. Tomorrow we have to seal the deal and like last year Thani is next to me and he is great at the start.” A point that was echoed by Al Thani, “If I have a good start tomorrow I can beat him. And he knows it!”
In a repeat of last year’s qualifying, Torrente’s Abu Dhabi Teammate Thani Al Qemzi went second quickest, this time missing the pole by 0.08s with Emirates Racing’s Marit Stromoy carrying the fight to the UAE outfit with a 42.86s lap to go third. “I didn’t expect to be up there today after the morning session and quite a poor Q1, but when you are that close you are not happy with third, but third is good,” she said. “I did a small mistake and I know exactly where I lost it but really I am pretty happy.”
The drama unfolded early in the second 15 minute session with the yellow flag coming out to halt proceedings after this weekend’s early pace setter Erik Stark barrel-rolled, the yellow raised again with just over 2 minutes of the session remaining when Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio, who topped the timesheets in Q1 took out a turn buoy, with Selio unable to untangle the mangled buoy from his boat in time to put in another lap and will start tomorrow’s race in 11th.
The two yellow flags reduced the running time in Q2 considerably, Stromoy going through to the shootout with the quickest time from Al Qemzi , Torrente in fourth, the trio joined by Philippe Chiappe, Jonas Andersson and Peter Morin.
Andersson’s one and only flying lap was good enough to put him ahead of the first man out Morin, Chiappe’s two runs only good enough for fifth, with Torrente then setting the quickest time of the weekend with his 42.58s lap which both Al Qemzi and Stromoy failed to better.
Francesco Cantando was the best of the two Blaze boats in eighth with teammate Greg Foster also getting through to Q2 in his first qualifying session and finishing in 12th, Bartek Marszalek and Erik Edin ahead of him in 9th and 10th.
It was a bitterly disappointing afternoon for Victory Team with both Alex Carella and Ahmed Al Hameli, who was in his spare boat after crashing out in morning practice, both missing the cut and failing to make it into Q2, finishing the opening 20 minute session in 14th and 17th positions.
There was also huge frustration for rookie Alberto Comparato who manged only one lap and was then side lined due to a faulty fuel injector, F1 Atlantic’s situation compounded further with Duarte Benavente missing he cut in 13th place.