Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson survived three yellow flag stoppages to claim a thrilling victory in Friday afternoon’s Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, as Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella recovered from yesterday’s accident to snatch third place from the clutches of the Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente within metres of the finish of the race at the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.
In a race that has strengthened runner-up Philippe Chiappe’s case for claiming a third successive world title heading into next weekend’s Sharjah showdown, yellow flag incidents ignited the drama and Carella overcame a crash on Friday and news of the death of his father in Italy on Thursday evening to round off the podium in a nail-biting climax.
Andersson’s win was his first since the 2009 Grand Prix in Liuzhou and a fifth in his career.
An emotional Carella said;
It was a crazy, crazy race.I pushed so hard on that last lap, right to the last metre to catch Shaun. It was a fantastic podium today after what happened with the crash yesterday and the news of my father. This is so special, this podium for me.
Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
Team Abu Dhabi didn’t have to change Carella’s engine and the Italian lined up in sixth on the pontoon behind Andersson, Stark, Chiappe, Torrente and Al-Hameli.
The three-time World Champion had received the tragic news overnight that his father had passed away after a long illness in Italy.
It was going to be a very emotional day for the local title contender.
Chiappe’s engine was rewired after the morning’s practice session and Torrente had his own power concerns, as the lights went out and all 19 boats charged to the first turn buoy in a tricky breeze at the start of the 45-lap race.
Chiappe made a superb start, but Andersson managed to fend off the Frenchman and maintain the advantage through the opening lap.
The top seven held station into lap three, although Francesco Cantando clipped a turn buoy on his 20th Abu Dhabi race and was docked one lap.
The Swede led by 6.88 seconds heading into the seventh lap, but Carella and Al-Qamzi could not improve on their sixth and seventh positions, as Chiappe overtook Stark to snatch second place to strengthen his grip on a third successive world title.
The race was yellow flagged on lap 10 when Xiong Ziwei crashed out of contention and action resumed three laps later with the leaders bunched up again.
Andersson held his advantage, as Stark forced Chiappe to run wide in the battle for second place.
Al-Hameli barrel-rolled within seconds of the restart after finding himself sandwiched between two boats driving into the sun and the race was stopped again.
Carella and Al-Qamzi moved up to fifth and sixth.
The green flag was raised on lap 17 and Andersson stayed ahead of Chiappe, Stark, Torrente and Carella, as Marit Stromoy displaced Al-Qamzi seconds before the yellow flag was raised for a third time when Andersson’s team mate Jesper Forss flipped spectacularly into the wind on the grandstand straight.
Al-Qamzi’s disappointing season continued when his boat began to sink on the course.
Racing resumed on lap 22 and Andersson again held his lead from Chiappe, but Torrente overtook Stark to snatch third place and the Swede then fell behind Carella into fifth place.
Sami Selio’s climb through the field continued and he moved into sixth behind Stark.
By the start of lap 28, Andersson led Chiappe by 1.68 seconds and the leading sextet held station into lap 32, although Carella began to close on Torrente in his bid to snatch the last place on the podium and Stark was managing to hold off Selio and Stromoy to maintain fifth.
Andersson extended his lead to 6.86 seconds with four laps to run, but Stark was forced out of the running with technical issues and his demise lifted Selio into fifth position.
There were no late dramas for the leading Swede, however, and he held on to claim a stunning victory, as Chiappe strengthened his grip on the world title with second place when Carella managed to sneak passed Torrente and claim a podium finish in front of the grandstand on the flying finish.
Chiappe takes a 19-point lead to Sharjah, with Torrente needing to win the race and hope that the Frenchman fails to finish.