Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi narrowly missed out on pole position to Team Sweden’s Erik Stark for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Harbin, round three of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship, at the Hulan Estuary Wetland Park.
The Swede had set the target lap of 40.65 seconds and Al-Qemzi fell just 0.13 seconds short in a thrilling end to an action-placed BRM Qualifying session that saw spectacular crashes for Frenchman Amaury Jousseaume and double World Champion Sami Selio and an eventual third place for the Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Hameli.
Nineteen drivers from 11 nations lined up for the 20 minutes of the opening Q1 session on a shortened course and Erik Stark set the bar early on with a lap of 42.27sec. Fuel tank issues sidelined Italian veteran Francesco Cantando and engine problems forced Grant Trask out of contention after just two laps.
Thani Al-Qemzi booked his place in Q2 with a time of 42.97sec, but French rookie Amaury Jousseaume of the Maverick F1 Team spectacularly flipped out of qualifying and forced a yellow flag situation after eight minutes of the session. Seven boats would miss out on Q2 and action resumed with just eight minutes remaining. Carella stormed through with a lap of 42.66sec, but Rashed Al-Qemzi was still down in 14thposition with five minutes to run. He eventually missed out on Q2, qualified 15th, as Cedric Deguisne, Mike Szymura and Peter Morin were also sidelined.
Six further drivers would be eliminated in a 15-minute Q2 session before the six-boat Q3 shoot-out. Shaun Torrente carded the target time of 42.16sec in slightly rougher conditions than drivers had faced in the morning’s practice and Sami Selio closed in with a 42.40sec tour. Ahmed Al-Hameli then hit the front with a lap of 42.10sec and Al-Qemzi lifted himself into sixth with a 42.35sec, but Carella was still to show his hand with nine minutes to run when Selio barrel-rolled out of fourth place and the session was yellow-flagged.
Racing resumed with just four minutes remaining and Carella was under pressure to beat his team-mate’s sixth fastest time of 42.35sec. The Italian improved with a 42.65sec lap and moved up to seventh and replaced Al-Qemzi in sixth with a 42.30sec, but Al-Qemzi stormed back with a stunning lap of 41.89sec to claim the fastest time that pushed Carella back to seventh. But Carella carded a 41.91sec in the dying seconds to push Philippe Chiappe out of the top six and into seventh. Al-Hameli, Torrente, Stark and Selio also qualified, but Carella’s lap was later discounted, he slipped back to seventh and Chiappe was given a stay of execution and managed to stay in contention.
Selio was unable to join Q3 after his accident so Chiappe was given the go-ahead to set the Q3 target time of 41.36sec on the first of his two laps. Stark was next up and moved ahead of the Frenchman with a first lap of 41.05sec and a second tour of 40.65sec. Torrente slotted into second on his first lap with a 41.23sec, but was unable to improve on his second tour.
Torrente’s Victory Team colleague Al-Hameli opened up with a 40.83sec and that lifted him into second and that paved the way for Al-Qemzi to start with a 40.78sec lap that moved him into second behind Stark, who claimed an impressive pole position for Team Sweden.
Carella had clocked the fastest lap in Friday afternoon’s free practice session with a quickest tour of 42.76sec. Only the Team Abu Dhabi driver and Erik Stark (42.92sec) broke the 43-second barrier, with Thani Al-Qemzi seventh with a 43.83sec lap and Rashed Al-Qemzi in 15th of the 19 boats with a best lap of 45.81sec.
“We found a good pace and a good set-up for qualifying,” said Carella. “We tested several different propellers, varied our set-ups and the boat handled well. The circuit is a little longer than last year and there was a bit of wind and some waves.”
Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson topped the times in Saturday morning’s practice session with Thani Al-Qemzi, Carella and Rashed Al-Qemzi locked in second, fifth and 15th positions.
y Brisset dominated the first free practice session, but it was a different story in the all-important time trials and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al-Mehairbi claimed pole position with a lap of 45.86sec. That was sufficient for the Emirati to beat the Emirates Racing Team’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori by 0.74 seconds. Mohamed Al-Yamahi of the Victory Team made it a UAE 1-2-3 with a lap of 46.64 seconds.
2017 Grand Prix of Harbin – BRM Qualifying result:
1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 40.65sec
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 40.78sec
3. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 40.83sec
4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 41.23sec
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 41.36sec
6. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing DNS
7. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 42.30sec
15. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 44.61sec
2017 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy – positions after round 3:
1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 32pts
1. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 32pts
3. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 31pts
4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 29pts
5. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 27pts
6. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 24pts
7. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad Croc Baba Racing 17pts
8. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 7pts
9. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts