Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella extended his advantage to 16 points in the 2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship after leading China’s Grand Prix of Liuzhou from start-to-finish on Sunday.
The three-time World Champion held off a fierce challenge from Team Sweden’s Erik Stark to reach the chequered flag 4.47 seconds in front of his series rival and 10.74 seconds ahead of defending champion Philippe Chiappe. The Victory Team duo of Ahmed Al-Hameli and Shaun Torrente finished fourth and fifth.
Despite one yellow flag interruption to reposition a displaced turn buoy, Carella was in a class of the field in his new boat and sixth position for Team Abu Dhabi team-mate Thani Al-Qemzi enabled the team running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) to extend its advantage in the UIM Teams’ Championship to 29 points over Team Sweden. Carella’s 14th career F1 win also moved him into a tie with Welshman Jonathan Jones in the Hall of Fame.
Rashed Al-Qemzi looked set for his first ever haul of championship points but slipped down to 11th position over the closing laps in the third of the Team Abu Dhabi boats.
This was such an important victory for me and puts the team in a great position heading to the last two races in the Middle East in the winter.
The new boat was fantastic.
I felt confident all weekend and all the hard work has been rewarded.
Now we head back to Abu Dhabi in a very strong position and have the opportunity to win the title with victory at our own Grand Prix.
GP of Liuzhou – the race
Team Abu Dhabi’s Carella and Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi lined-up in pole position, seventh and eighth for the start of the 48-lap race on the Liu River.
Carella’s closest series rival Sami Selio was 18th after a spectacular crash wrecked his qualifying session. Torrente lined up in 10th and defending champion Chiappe was fifth in sunny conditions on the Liu River.
Carella maintained his lead from the start and headed Stark, Al-Hameli and Chiappe – who passed Marit Stromoy – through the opening few laps. Thani Al-Qemzi maintained seventh, but Torrente overtook Rashed Al-Qemzi to take eighth place.
Torrente also managed to find a way past Thani Al-Qemzi and into seventh as the race headed into laps five and six.
By lap 10, Carella’s lead over Stark had grown to 6.89 seconds as the duo began to pull clear of third-placed Al-Hameli, Chiappe, Stromoy, Andersson and Torrente. Carella’s lead had increased to 12.04 seconds by the time a yellow flag was raised on lap 13, as Selio’s miserable weekend continued at the rear of the field and a turn buoy was dislodged on the course.
Racing resumed on lap 21 and Carella maintained his lead from Stark, but Chiappe overtook Al-Hameli to snatch third. Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi resumed in eighth and ninth positions, but Torrente moved ahead of Andersson to seize sixth. Carella extended his advantage to 5.67 seconds through lap 25, but Rashed Al-Qemzi slipped behind Mike Szymura and into 10th position and Duarte Benavente retired soon afterwards with technical issues.
With 11 laps remaining, Carella led Stark by 4.3 seconds from Chiappe, Al-Hameli, Stromoy and Torrente. Thani Al-Qemzi moved up to seventh at the expense of a retiring Andersson, but Rashed Al-Qemzi fell out of the top 10.
Stromoy ceded fifth to Torrente and was also overtaken by Thani Al-Qemzi and fell to seventh place before falling out of the top 10. Carella held on to reach the chequered flag and extend his lead in the World Championship to 16 points, as Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi finished the race in sixth and 11th positions.