France’s Philippe Chiappe won in Abu Dhabi with a commanding flag to flag performance and at the same time kept his Championship hopes alive.
Photos: Mike Powell
Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella will have to wait until next weekend’s Grand Prix of Sharjah to make his final push for a fourth UIM F1 H2O World Championship title after finishing third in a scintillating 25th Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi off the Abu Dhabi Breakwater on Friday afternoon.
Triple World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team didn’t read the Team Abu Dhabi script correctly and the wily Frenchman delivered a stunning start-to-finish victory to reduce the Italian’s lead to 11 points with 20 points at stake for a win next week and 15 for second place. It means Carella will need to finish third or higher to claim his crown if Chiappe manages to win the race.
Norwegian Marit Stromoy missed out on her second ever Grand Prix victory by just 2.37 seconds, but it was a stunning drive by the only female in the championship. Team Sweden’s Erik Stark ceded another five points to Carella with fifth place and cannot catch now the Team Abu Dhabi driver at the final round. Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente finished fourth and Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson rounded off the top six.
The result means that Carella and Chiappe will go head-to-head on Khaled Lagoon and the pair will also be working closely with their respective teams to try and clinch the UIM Teams’ Championship. Team Abu Dhabi currently holds a 33-point advantage over Team Sweden and 35 points over the CTIC Shenzhen China Team.
Carella said: “I am quite happy with this performance actually. It was a tough race. I did what I could. I pushed and closed the gap to Marit many times but it was just too risky. I think we really have to push at the maximum next week.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi were closely matched throughout the race and had differing fortunes at the finish. Thani reached the chequered flag in seventh position, but fuel pump problems plagued Rashed’s DAC on the final couple of laps and he slipped from 10th to 12th. “It was disappointing for me,” said Rashed. “I pushed hard and was in 10th, then I had this fuel pump problem and it cost me two places.
Cappellini said: “We are happy because we scored points and Erik (Stark) is now out of contention. It’s just Chiappe and Alex now. But it is very important that we win the Teams’ Championship and we will work hard for that. In case Chiappe wins the race next week and his second driver arrives second, it will give them the same points as us. We need just one point to beat them and three to beat Team Sweden. So this title is very near.”
Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
With technical issues sidelining a disappointed Bartek Marszalek, Matthew Palfreyman and Erik Edin, only 18 boats lined up the starting pontoon for the 52-lap race and engine changes forced Mike Szymura and Sami Selio to the bottom of the running order. As a result, Rashed and Thani Al-Qemzi started from seventh and 13th.
Chiappe led into the first turn buoy from Stromoy, Carella, Torrente and Stark, but the race was yellow flagged when Sami Selio and Cedric Deguisne came together spectacularly at turn five near the beach area of the race course. Selio’s BABA ended up inverted in the water and the double World Champion’s miserable season reached a new low.
Racing resumed on lap six and the leading five boats held station with Chiappe extending his advantage to 2.69 seconds through lap eight and Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi held 10th and 11th places. The Frenchman’s lead over Stromoy grew to 5.87 seconds after 12 laps, as Carella, Torrente and Stark maintained their top five positions and Thani Al-Qemzi moved ahead of Ahmed Al-Hameli to snatch ninth.
But Stromoy was in superb form and began to reduce Chiappe’s lead as the leader began to catch some tail-enders. Both Mike Szymura and Amaury Jousseaume retired and the field had already been reduced to just 14 boats before lap 15. Chiappe regained a second of his advantage into lap 18, but Francesco Cantando and Duarte Benevente also left the fray and the field was whittled down to just 12. The leader had lapped everyone to 10th position by the time he reached lap 24, as Carella, Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi maintained third, ninth and 11th.
By the halfway point, after 26 laps, the top five was unchanged and the leaders settled into a high-speed procession through the middle of the race as cloud cover reduced air temperatures in fading light over the race course. Rashed Al-Qemzi managed to find a way to overtake Al-Hameli and climbed into the top 10 and Thani Al-Qemzi moved in front of Filip Roms to snatch eighth.
Chiappe maintained his composure and benefited from a lighter fuel load to maintain his lead over the pursuing Norwegian and the series leader. The Frenchman reached the chequered flag to claim a deserved win and managed to close the gap on Carella to 11 points. Stromoy rounded off a stunning weekend with second position and Stark maintained his title push with fifth place behind Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente. Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi finished seventh and 12th, but Peter Morin dropped down to ninth in the final minutes.
Deguisne was later red-carded for dangerous driving after his collision with Selio and will miss the final race of the season.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – positions after round 5:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 70pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 59pts
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 49pts
4. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 30pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 30pts
6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 29pts
7. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 28pts
8. Marit Stromoy (NOR) 18pts
9. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 17pts
10. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 14pts
10. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze Performance Team 14pts
2017 F4-S Trophy – latest positions:
1. Mansoor Al-Mansoori (UAE) Victory Team 95pts
2. Jeremy Brisset (FRA) F1 Atlantic Team 93pts
3. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 77pts
4. Louise Vella (AUS) Team Sweden 69pts
5. Corentin Guesnel (FRA) Maverick F1 37pts
5. Bingchen Wu (CHN) CTIC F1 China Team 37pts
7. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing Team 29pts
8. Rudolf Mihaldinecz (HUN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 21pts
9. Mohamed Al-Yamahi (UAE) Victory Team 16pts
10. Sebastien Haugaard (SWE) Team Sweden 15pts
11. Damon Cohen (AUS) Blaze Performance 8pts
11. Mohamed Al-Matlae (UAE) Victory Team 8pts
13. Rashed Al-Romaithi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 6pts
Tom Chiappe (FRA) Emirates Racing Team 0pt