Triple World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC Shenzhen China Team left it until his last lap to register a winning time of 42.83sec and deprived a flying Norwegian Marit Stromoy of a second career pole position.
Eight-tenths of a second separated the top six with Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente finishing fourth, ahead of Alex Carella’s closest title rival Erik Stark and Emirati Ahmed Al-Hameli.
Carella said: “It was not the best qualifying for me. We made some mistakes. I got a bit lost in my rhythm on my best lap. I guess I am ahead of Erik, but I am behind Philippe now. That is not perfect, but it will be a long and difficult race with this water. Marit is a very good driver and I am pleased for her that she delivered such a great performance.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi belied his lack of F1 experience to set some scintillating lap times and was rewarded with eighth place on the pontoon for Friday’s race. “I am very happy with that and am trying to push harder for the future. I was inside the top six until near the end, but I could not find any clear water to set a faster time. I will try to push hard in the race.”
Thani Al-Qemzi blotted his copybook early in the morning’s practice session when he spectacularly flipped his DAC and was forced to switch to the spare Team Abu Dhabi boat for qualifying. He will start the race from 15th position. Al-Qemzi said: “I had a good start this morning in practice and then I crashed. I took the spare boat, but I was not happy with it. The crash had no affect on me but the second boat was not so good for me.”
Cappellini said: “I am surprised because our boat was faster than this in the private test. I don’t know why. Now we check, engine and propeller. I am not happy for this. We work 20 days to not have this result. Saying that, third place is good and it was important to be in front of Stark. Honestly, we pushed hard for the pole position to win the race. Marit was incredible – one perfect lap, a lap of life! Now, if Alex has a very good start and he stays in first, okay, but, if not, maybe it’s better not to take risks.”
After a cracked sponson sidelined disappointed Swedish rookie Erik Edin before the start, eight of the remaining 20 boats would be eliminated in the opening Q1 session. Ahmed Al-Hameli and Al-Qemzi switched to spare DACs for the start of the session. Carella opened his account with a lap of 45.52sec, but that was surpassed by a flying Bartek Marszalak, Marit Stromoy, Chiappe and Stark.
A flying Ahmed Al-Hameli topped the timings with a flying last lap of 44.50sec, but rookie Matthew Palfreyman, the French duo of Cedric Deguisne and Amaury Jousseaume, Grant Trask, Francesco Cantandio, Thani Al-Qemzi, Mike Szymura and Duarte Benavente were eliminated. Carella and Rashed Al-Qemzi sneaked through to Q2 in 10th and 12th positions.
A further six boats were eliminated in the 15 minutes of Q2, but the yellow flag was raised in the first minute when Sami Selio and Stark collided, Selio flipped over and Stark continued relatively unscathed. The session was restarted and Stark stormed to the top of the standings with a lap of 43.80sec. Eventual session winner Chiappe, Stark, Carella, Ahmed Al-Hameli, Marit Stromoy and Shaun Torrente made the two-lap shoot-out, but Selio, Rashed Al-Qemzi, Filip Roms, Marszalak, Peter Morin and Jonas Andersson missed out on Q3.
Torrente was first to run his two hot laps and the American posted the target of 43.77sec and improved with a 43.28sec second lap. Stromoy was aiming for her second career pole and the Norwegian opened with a 43.39sec and set a stunning second lap of 42.89sec to snatch provisional pole. Al-Hameli set a first lap of 44.24sec and improved with a 43.43sec lap, but it was not enough for the Victory Team driver.
Carella’s destiny lay ahead and the Italian carded a first tour of 43.02sec to move into second position and was unable to beat that on his second run. That left Stark and Chiappe to spoil the Stromoy party. The Swede opened with a 43.89sec and moved up to fourth with a 43.47sec second lap. Chiappe opened with a 43.50sec and he snatched pole with a 42.83sec lap to cap a memorable qualifying session and ruin a fairytale story for Stromoy.
Further practice is permitted on Friday morning, the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi fires into life at the Breakwater from 3.30pm.
2017 UIM F1 H2O World Championship – qualifying times (Thursday):
1. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42.83sec
2. Marit Stromoy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 42.89sec
3. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 43.02sec
4. Shaun Torrente (USA) Victory Team 43.28sec
5. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 43.47sec
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 43.53sec
7. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Blaze F1 Team 44.34sec
8. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 44.39sec
9. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 44.46sec
10. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 44.61sec
11. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing 45.61sec
12. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing DNF
13. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 45.87sec
14. Amaury Jousseaume (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 46.01sec
15. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 46.41sec
16. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 46.68sec
17. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 47.00sec
18. Mike Szymura (DEU) Emirates Racing Team 47.15sec
19. Matthew Palfreyman (GBR) Emirates Racing Team 48.75sec
Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team DNS
Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden DNS
2017 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Trophy – latest positions:
1. Alex Carella (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 59pts
2. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 58pts
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Sweden 54pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 49pts
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. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 7pts
10. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 5pts
10. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 5pts