Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi made all the pre-season hard work pay dividends by qualifying in first, second and 11th positions for the Grand Prix of Portugal on the Arada River in Portimão on Saturday evening.
To avoid potentially disruptive weather and tidal conditions earlier in the day, the three-stage BRM Qualifying session was held as the sun began to set over the Algarve.
The trio running DAC boats out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) were on the pace throughout the afternoon and Torrente saved his best form until it really mattered to snatch the prime starting position for the race with a lap of 41.68 seconds in a thrilling Q3 shoot-out.
Thani Al-Qemzi pushed his new team-mate mightily close to steal second position, but Italy’s four-time World Champion Alex Carella was not able to break the sub 42-second barrier and the Victory Team driver qualified in third.
His team-mate Ahmed Al-Hameli gave the UAE the first four places on the start pontoon. Three-time World Champion Philippe Chiappe and his French colleague Peter Morin rounded off the top six.
I am so proud of the team.
All the guys worked so hard and I thank everyone at the club who work so hard for us.
Six months of work and it shows with first and second places.
I love everything about the boat.
Today I did a good job.
But there is a little bit left on the table and that is what matters.
Now we have to continue working and finish the job!
The first BRM Qualifying session of the new season was split into three sessions, with seven drivers losing out in Q1 and a further six dropping by the wayside in Q2.
Less than a second separated the top 12 drivers with four minutes of a frantic Q1 session to run, although both Bartek Marszalek and Filip Roms failed to start and were eliminated alongside Simone Shuft, Cedric Deguisne, Sami Selio, Erik Stark and Erik Edin after Grant Trask survived to fight again in Q2 in the dying seconds.
Three boats were under investigation: Edin had not qualified anyway but Torrente’s fastest lap of the session was erased. The Team Abu Dhabi driver qualified in any case, as Jonas Andersson was awarded the Q1 win.
Six further drivers would fall in Q2. Chiappe opened with a flyer of 42.92sec and moved to the top of the leader board, as Andersson was sidelined with boat damage. Carella, Thani Al-Qemzi and Torrente held top four positions heading into the final five minutes. But Q2 spelt the end of the road for Trask, Rashed Al-Qemzi, Francesco Cantando, Duarte Benavente and Marit Strømøy.
Peter Morin was first up in the six-boat shoot-out and posted the target of 42.16sec. He was unable to match that on his second run. Carella opened his account with a 42.03sec and shaved 1/100ths of a second off that time on his second run to move to the top of the rankings. Torrente opened with a stunning lap of 41.68sec and fell 3/100ths short on his second run but held the initiative.
His Team Abu Dhabi colleague Thani Al-Qemzi managed to snatch second position with a best lap of 41.75sec, but neither Al-Hameli nor Chiappe could match the American’s time and Team Abu Dhabi celebrated a famous 1-2 finish.
Sunday’s on-water action gets underway with free practice and this precedes F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races. The 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal then takes centre stage at 18.00hrs (GMT +1).
2018 Grand Prix of Portugal – BRM Qualifying result
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 41.68sec
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 41.75sec
3. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 42.02sec
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 42.11sec
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42.14sec
6. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42.16sec
7. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 43.59sec
8. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 44.53sec
9. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 44.55sec
10. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 44.72sec
11. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.02sec
12. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 46.79sec
13. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden 45.00sec
14. Erik Stark (SWE) Maverick F1 Racing 45.12sec
15. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 46.87sec
16. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 47.69sec
17. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 56.27sec
Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team DNS
Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team DNS
2018 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championship – standings after round 1:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 20pts
2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 15pts
3. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 12pts
4. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 9pts
5. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 7pts
6. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 5pts