Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente will start Sunday’s Grand Prix of India on the Krishna River in Amaravati from pole position, after a thrilling BRM Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
As the 2018 UIM F1 H2O World Championship heads for a thrilling showdown with this weekend’s race and two titanic contests to follow in the UAE in December, Torrente left it until his last lap in Q3 qualifying to deny Norwegian lady racer Marit Strømøy of a second career pole position.
Team Abu Dhabi team-mates Erik Stark and Thani Al-Qemzi, Erik Stark qualified close behind in third and fourth to set up the prospect of a thrilling showdown on the 2.125km course.
Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson qualified in fifth place and Ahmed Al-Hameli of the Victory Team was sixth.
Three-time World Champion Philippe Chiappe of the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team and defending champion Alex Carella of the Victory Team failed to reach Q3.
BRM qualifying was again split into three sessions with seven of the 19 entrants eliminated in the opening 20 minutes of Q1 and a further six leaving the fray in the 15 minutes of Q2.
The top six would then be permitted two laps each to determine Pole Position Championship points and the starting order for the race.
The Victory Team’s Al-Hameli and Carella started strongly and respective lap times of 48.52sec and 48.78sec all but booked their places in Q2.
Torrente stormed to the top of the standings soon afterwards with a 48.22sec tour and that was surpassed by Chiappe’s 47.95sec run heading into the last 10 minutes.
The yellow flag was raised briefly soon afterwards after Chiappe ground to a halt on the course. But the Frenchman made his way back to the pits without further delays, as team-mate Peter Morin tested a new shorter boat for the team.
Stark entered the course late in the session but the Team Abu Dhabi driver was up to speed quickly and set an opening top 10 lap of 49.02sec. Al-Qemzi went quickest with a 47.02sec in the last four minutes and Carella also passed Chiappe to book his Q2 place.
Andersson, Al-Qemzi and Stark eventually topped the session times and Torrente moved through in sixth place, but Cédric Deguisne, Sutthipan Sookbuangbon, Simone Schuft, Erik Edin, double World Champion Sami Selio, Filip Roms and Grant Trask were eliminated.
Six more drivers would fall by the wayside in Q2. Torrente stormed to the top of the timings with a lap of 46.78sec and Al-Qemzi and Al-Hameli followed suit to hold second and third before Stark posted a 46.79sec tour.
Carella then stormed to the front with a 46.27sec lap and demoted Torrente to fifth behind Al-Qemzi, Al-Hameli and Stark.
Fractions of a second separated nine drivers heading into the closing minutes and Torrente was down in seventh place until his last lap of 45.82sec pushed the American to the top of the standings ahead of Al-Qemzi and Stark.
Strømøy (above), Al-Hameli and Andersson also qualified. Bartak Marszalek, Duarte Benavente, Francesco Cantando, Peter Morin, a stunned Alex Carella and Phlippe Chiappe were eliminated.
Guido Cappellini said:
This was not easy at all.
My heart was working too much.
In the last 10 seconds Torrente arrived in the first position. Now we see Team Abu Dhabi in 1-2-3 again.
This is a difficult race course.
It is important to have a little luck and Shaun had a little luck at the end of that session.
Andersson was first out for Q3 and the Team Amaravati driver carded an opening target lap of 45.22sec.
Al-Hameli opened his account with a 45.43sec lap and improved with a 45.23sec, but missed out on provisional pole by 1/100ths of a second.
Strømøy stormed to the top with a 44.72sec flyer and that left the Team Abu Dhabi trio to try and beat the Norwegian.
Stark (below) was the first of the drivers out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) to challenge for pole.
He opened his account with a 45.00sec lap and slotted into second place.
Championship leader Al-Qemzi was next up and the Emirati began with a tour of 45.06sec as he tried to claim a first pole for 11 years.
He moved into third place and was not able to improve on his second run.
All eyes were on Torrente to see if the Team Abu Dhabi could beat the Norwegian.
The American opened with an aborted run of 49.85sec and then stormed to pole with a stunning lap of 44.54sec to deprive his female rival of the bragging rights.
2018 Grand Prix of India – BRM Qualifying times:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 44.54sec
2. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 44.72sec
3. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.00sec
4. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45.06sec
5. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati 45.22sec
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 45.23sec
7. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 47.04sec
8. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 47.25sec
9. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 47.50sec
10. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Tea 47.52sec
11. Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team 47.91sec
12. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team DNS
13. Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team 48.82sec
14. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 48.98sec
15. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 49.37sec
16. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 50.84sec
17. Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team 54.85sec
18. Sutthipan Sookbuangbon (THI) Maverick F1 Team 55.00sec
19. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Amaravati 57.03sec
2018 UIM F1 H2O Pole Position Championship – standings after round 5:
1. Erik Stark (SWE) Team Abu Dhabi 67pts
2. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 60pts
3. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 45pts
4. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 42pts
5. Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team 24pts
6. Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team 21pts
7. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team 20pts
8. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Amaravati 19pts
9. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team 14pts
10. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 12pts
11. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team 9pts
12. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden/Team Amaravati 7pts