Shaun Torrente lead home a Team Abu Dhabi 1-2-3 masterclass in the fourth round of the 2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship in Xiangyang, China.
Pole sitter Torrente claimed his second win of the season and was followed to the chequered flag by team-mates Thani Al-Qemzi and Erik Stark.
The result means that 40-year-old Al-Qemzi now leads the Drivers’ Championship by a single point from Stark, with Torrente a further point behind.
Once Al-Qemzi had passed Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson on the opening lap, the three drivers ran a professional and processional race to the finish.
Andersson secured fourth place, three-time World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team earned valuable points for fifth and Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli was sixth. Team Abu Dhabi moved further ahead of their rivals in the UIM Teams’ Championship, while Frenchman Peter Morin earned the fastest lap of the race – a tour of 56.57sec.
Torrente said: “I had Erik on my side at the start and then Thani next to Jonas. The idea was to protect each other at the start and then whoever wins, wins.”
Torrente led the way from Stark, Andersson and Al-Qemzi at the start pontoon for 39 laps of the demanding seven-pin, 2.23km course. The grid was whittled down to 17 following the premature retirements of Francesco Cantando and Simone Shuft in the morning’s practice session.
Warm conditions welcomed teams to the 10th Chinese venue to ever host a Grand Prix. It was a clean start and everyone made it safely through the opening turn buoy. Al-Qemzi made a storming start and passed Andersson and Stark to snatch second place, but Torrente began to edge clear and was 3.74 seconds ahead after two laps. Chiappe and Al-Hameli held fifth and sixth positions.
Torrente began to close in on the back-markers by lap four, as he and Al-Qemzi continued to open up a gap on Stark and Andersson and a hard-chasing Chiappe. The American carded the fastest lap of the race of 57.71sec thus far and held a 3.89-second advantage over Al-Qemzi after six laps. Stark was 11.14 seconds adrift.
The top 10 held station through as many laps and Torrente extended his advantage to 6.16 seconds into lap 15, but Portugal’s Duarte Benavente and double World Champion Sami Selio were sidelined and Thailand’s Sutthipan Sookbuangbon struggled at the rear of the field on his race debut. Four-time World Champion Alex Carella had been running in 12th place and also withdrew his Victory Team boat.
Bartak Marszalak spun out of eighth place after a spin, but Torrente maintained an outright 2.9-second lead over Al-Qemzi after 22 laps. Grant Trask also withdrew soon afterwards with his own technical issues.
Torrente’s lead was down to 3.18 seconds with 12 laps to go, but the top six were running in procession and there were no late dramas for the American. He duly eased his pace slightly and passed the chequered flag 6.03 seconds in front of Al-Qemzi and stormed back into title contention, as Stark rounded off another historic 1-2-3 finish for Team Abu Dhabi.
2018 Agile Grand Prix of Xiangyang – result:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 39 laps
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi @6.03sec
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi @11.83sec
4. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati @18.33sec
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team @27.47sec
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team @28.07sec
7. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team @36.57sec
8. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team @37.02sec
9. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati @53.83sec
10. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team L1
11. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team L2
12. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team L2
13. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team L11
Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team RET
Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team RET
Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team RET
Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team RET
Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team DNS
Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team DNS
2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – standings after round 4:
1. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 54pts
2. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 53pts
3. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 52pts
4. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 34pts
5. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 30pts
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 15pts
7. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 14pts
8. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 13pts
9. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 11pts
10. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 9pts
11. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 7pts
12. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
12. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
14. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 4pts
15. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 3pts
15. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 3pts