Thani Al-Qamzi, Alex Carella, Majed Al-Mansoori and Tullio Abbate shadow CTIC China Team to finish
Mohammed Al-Mehairbi, Rashid Al-Qamzi, Alberto Comparato and Rashid Al-Tayer retire Team Abu Dhabi 36
The Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) enjoyed a superb weekend of endurance racing on their debut at the punishing 24 Hours of Rouen in northern France. The team entered two DAC boats in the world famous race and the Team Abu Dhabi 35 quartet of Alex Carella, Thani Al-Qamzi, Majed Al-Mansoori and Tullio Abbate finished first in the S2 class and third overall in their DAC after completing 792 laps of the 3.8km course on the River Seine.
“This was an amazing experience for me and the entire team,” said Thani Al-Qamzi. “It’s hard to put into words the experience of running at speeds for very long periods where you have to keep maximum concentration to avoid making any mistakes.”
The overall race victory and the S1 class win fell to the double UIM F1 H20 World Champion Philippe Chiappe and his fellow French crew of Peter and Nelson Morin and Rodolphe Avenel in the F1 CTIC China Team Moore entry. They hit the front towards the end of the first session on Saturday evening, after Team Abu Dhabi 35 had suffered mechanical issues, and held the lead to the finish. Team Abu Dhabi 35 also suffered a propeller failure in the final hour that dropped them behind the French Team Cegelec SDEM ITM boat and into third in the overall standings. But the S2 class win was secured by an impressive 37-lap margin.
“What an amazing weekend’s racing,” said Carella. “The class win for Team Abu Dhabi after a long difficult race, where we overcame our fair share of problems and survived that late scare at the end.”
“This race was an amazing experience for our entire team and a superb opportunity for everyone to bond together and work alongside one another over a long period of time in a high pressure environment,” Salem Al-Romaithi, assistant general manager of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC). “It was an incredible test of endurance for the drivers, the equipment and every member of the team.”
Mohammed Al-Mehairbi, Rashid Al-Qamzi, Italy’s Alberto Comparato and Rashid Al-Tayer crewed the second Team Abu Dhabi 36 boat and lost time in the first four hours of the race after running inside the top six from the start. They climbed back into contention during Saturday afternoon, but a crash late on Saturday evening for Comparato damaged the boat and forced them into retirement.
Team Abu Dhabi is sponsored by Etihad Airways and runs under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
Thirty-one boats lined up at the start of the 53rd edition of the famous race, with seven registered in Class S1, nine in Team Abu Dhabi’s S2 category and 15 in S3. Racing was split into two sections, starting with the first session between 10am on Saturday morning and 1am on Sunday. The remaining nine hours commenced at 8am on Sunday morning and finished at 5pm.
Carella and Al-Tayer were given the important task of taking the boat into the opening session and the all-important first hour or so of racing. Team Abu Dhabi 35 managed 35 laps in that opening hour and that gave the team an early 2.489 second advantage over their nearest rivals in VSI Racing, with New Star 1 a close third. Team Abu Dhabi 36 slotted into eighth overall and fourth in the S2 class.
New Star 1 hit the front after the second hour and ran for 68 laps to hold a one-lap advantage over Team Abu Dhabi 35 and the Pegase Racing Team. The second Team Abu Dhabi boat climbed to seventh and fourth in S2.
The leading trio began to pull clear of the field after three hours and 93 laps of racing, with Team Abu Dhabi 35 and Thani Al-Qamzi holding a 14-second lead over New Star 1, although Team Abu Dhabi 36 slipped to 12th after some technical issues with Majed Al-Mansoori at the helm and Team Nollet crashed spectacularly out of contention.
After five hours and 155 laps, the French Pegase Racing Team had edged into a five-lap lead over Team Abu Dhabi 35 and headed Navikart Racing by eight laps. New Star 1 had slipped to sixth with a mechanical issue and the second Team Abu Dhabi boat was down in 26th position out of the 31 starters. But Team Abu Dhabi retained the all-important S2 class lead, as the team out of the ADIMSC adopted a strategy of changing drivers every two hours.
With two hours to go in the first 15-hour section of the race, Carella returned to the hot seat of Team Abu Dhabi 35 with the crew lying in second position behind the F1 CTIC China Team, spear headed by double World Champion Philippe Chiappe. Carella’s boat was running 10 laps behind the S1 class leader and still out in front in S2. Team Abu Dhabi 25 had climbed back to 10th place.
After 14 hours the margin had widened to 20 laps and Team Abu Dhabi 35 had completed 459 laps of the Seine course. But the team endured a troubled final two hours with a broken propeller and gearbox and engine issues. Boat 35 only completed a further six laps in the final hour and slipped to fourth in the overall rankings and second in the S2 class behind Navikart Racing. Team Abu Dhabi 36 was 11th and eighth in S2 after an accident, but there were 11 other boats in the pits having repairs or retired from the race.
“It was actually a very disappointing finish to the first session,” said Carella. “We were leading almost all the day and, in the last three hours, we had the technical issues and will restart fourth and second in class after stopping for an hour. I will get a few hours’ sleep and be in the boat for the first session. At night, you cannot see the water. You have to just drive the boat and aim for the land marks.”
That final nine-hour stint began at 8am on Sunday morning in bright and sunny conditions. The F1 CTIC China Team began the day with a 36-lap advantage over Navikart Racing. Team Abu Dhabi 35 was 52 laps behind in fourth. Team Abu Dhabi 36 did not restart after the accident on Saturday night.
Carella started well and Team Abu Dhabi 35 climbed to third place after 16 hours behind the CTIC China Team and the class-leading Navicart Racing. The team remained 38 laps behind the leaders and gained another lap, another place and the class S2 lead in the second hour of racing when Navicart Racing hit trouble.
At three-quarter distance, after 18 hours, Team Abu Dhabi 35 was in a strong second position and first in the S2 class, albeit 34 laps behind the CTIC China Team. Former leaders New Star 1, were suffering from air intake issues. The gap between the two leaders increased to 37 laps after 19 hours and was reduced to 36 tours with four hours remaining.
There was a late scare for Team Abu Dhabi 35 when the boat was forced to return to the pits in the last hour with a broken propeller. The crew had reduced the F1 CTIC China Team’s lead to just 25 laps when the problem occurred and it cost them one place in the overall standings; they slipped behind Team Cegelec SDEM ITEM and into third, although they confirmed the win in Class S2 to cap a memorable weekend for the ADIMSC.
24 Hours of Rouen – Class S2 results:
1. Team Abu Dhabi 35 – 792 laps
2. Navikart Racing 32 – 755 laps
3. New Star 1 20 – 728 laps
4. Team Studio Fitness 38 – 721 laps
5. Extreme Racing 26 – 703 laps
6. Team Studio Fitness 28 – 647 laps
7. Team Privilege 25 – 200 laps
8. New Star 2 22 DNF – 485 laps
9. Team Abu Dhabi 36 DNF – 321 laps
Photography kindly supplied by Peter ‘Pepe’ Moorkens and Luc Vermeiren / Powerboatracing.be & Adimsc.ae