Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella and Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team, qualified in pole and fifth position for the 18th Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khaled Lagoon on Thursday afternoon.
I don’t think about Philippe out there on the water. I think about my team. I wanted to give the maximum. I want to close the championship in the best way possible. I am so happy for this. I did everything I could. I want to finish as the champion by winning the race. After my first lap, I hear my radioman say ‘still go, still go’ and I think from buoy four to buoy one I don’t even feel the boat under my body. I fly and fly and it was close because Erik did a fantastic time. This was one of the most important pole positions ever for me.
The UIM F1 H20 World Championship rivals are separated by 11 points in the title race and, in a nail-biting qualifying session, the three-time World Champions slugged it out for fractions of a second to give them the psychological advantage heading into what promises to be a pulsating finale on Friday.
UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy
Carella’s pole success also meant he pipped both Chiappe and Erik Stark to claim the UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy.
Team Sweden’s Erik Stark will shadow the Italian from the pontoon on Friday after finishing second and Poland’s Bartek Marszalek rounded off the podium – the first of his career.
The Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli qualified fourth, Chiappe was fifth and Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson rounded off the top six. Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed and Thani Al-Qemzi qualified for the race in 11th and 12th positions after being eliminated in Q2.
Nineteen of the 21 entrants lined up on the start pontoon for the three qualifying sessions. Maverick Racing’s Béranger Robert missed out with the team down to just one boat and Matthew Palfreyman’s team changed the Dragon boat’s fuel pump to rectify issues from the morning’s practice but an electrical problem with the radio sidelined the Englishman at the 11th hour. Victory Team drivers, Shaun Torrente and Ahmed Al-Hameli, switched to a DAC and BABA for their respective qualifying stints after a successful test in Dubai this week.
Seven of the 19 would be eliminated in Q1 as the wind strengthened slightly. Chiappe leapt to the top of the early standings with a lap of 48.20sec only to be passed by Torrente and Filip Roms with 13 of the 20 minutes remaining. Carella eventually topped the times in the session with a flying tour of 47.36sec, as Rashed and Thani Al-Qemzi were classified in ninth and 12th positions. Cédric Deguisne, Erik Edin, Duarte Benavente, Grant Trask, Mike Szymura, Francesco Cantando and Sami Selio were eliminated to leave 12 boats set for Q2, with Selio complaining of a wrong propeller choice. One second separated the top 11 drivers.
Six drivers would miss out on the six-boat Q3 shoot-out after the 15 minutes of Q2. Andersson laid down the early gauntlet with a lap of 47.56sec and that was soon surpassed by Carella’s lap of 47.25sec and Chiappe’s 47.23sec tour. Stark made it safely through with an even quicker run of 47.14sec, but Carella won the session with a best time of 46.81sec. Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi, Peter Morin, Filip Roms, Marit Strømøy and Torrente were eliminated.
Ahmed Al-Hameli was the first driver to post a target time in Q3 as the light began to fade. He carded a 45.87sec opener and was not able to match that on his second run. Andersson was next up and fell short with a first tour of 46.15sec before aborting his second attempt and that opened the door for Chiappe to stake his claim on pole position.
The defending World Champion opened with a 46.13sec and was not able to improve on his second run and fell short of grabbing pole on a race he must win. Stark opened his account with a pole-setting time of 45.27sec and that was quicker than his second lap, but Marszalek and Carella still had their chance.
The Pole discounted his opening lap and then leapt into second position with a stunning second run of 45.75sec. Carella opened with a lap of 45.32sec to move into second and snatched pole with a dramatic and memorable last lap of 45.01sec.
Abu Dhabi Team Manager Guido Cappellini commented at the podium after:
The team have worked very good this week but the important thing is the flag tomorrow on the last lap. Now, for Alex, it is more simple to stay in front and more easy to start from the front without the traffic behind. I pray to not have any mechanical problems or stupid little problem that could cost us the World Championship. I hope Insha’allah for tomorrow.
Further F4-S practice and timed trials are planned for Friday morning, before a second practice session for the F1 boats and the final F4-S race of the season at 14.30hrs. The 2017 Grand Prix of Sharjah and the climax to a thrilling season fires into life at 16.00hrs.
Photos: Mike Powell
2017 Grand Prix of Sharjah – BRM Qualifying:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.01sec
2. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 45.27sec
3. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team 45.75sec
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 45.87sec
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 46.13sec
6. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 46.15sec
7. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 47.34sec
8. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 47.38sec
9. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 47.83sec
10. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 47.94sec
11. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48.02sec
12. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48.13sec
13. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 48.55sec
14. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden 49.19sec
15. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 49.40sec
16. Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team 49.42sec
17. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 50.22sec
18. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 50.25sec
19. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 54.23sec
Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team DNS
Béranger Robert (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
2017 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy – final positions:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 79pts
2. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 69pts
3. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 65pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 58pts
5. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 38pts
6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 24pts
6. Marit Stromoy (NOR) EMIC Racing Team 24pts
8. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 17pts
9. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team 12pts
10. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 10pts
11. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 7pts
12. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts