Team Abu Dhabi drivers target another double title
Team Abu Dhabi launch their bid for another double title triumph at the weekend as the UIM F1H2O World Championship roars back to life on its first visit to Italy for 15 years.
Team manager Guido Cappellini, who won the 2006 race, is using all his experience and local knowledge to help Shaun Torrente and Thani Al Qemzi make a flying start to this year’s reduced championship.
The Italian race legend and ten-times former world champion put Torrente and Al Qamzi through two full days of intense training last week on the River Po in San Nazzaro.
The Grand Prix of Europe gets under way there with official practice on Saturday, 629 days since the previous F1 race in Sharjah saw Torrente secure his second world drivers title in dramatic fashion.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years since I got out of the boat after winning the second world championship,” said Torrente. “But the team has been preparing throughout the pandemic. We’ve made improvements in all areas, so it’s up to Thani and myself to show how strong we are as a team.”
With Torrente now aiming for a world championship hat-trick, Qemzi continues his pursuit of a title which has so far eluded the Emirati driver, who made his debut in the flagship single-seater inshore circuit racing series back in 2000.
He has eight Grand Prix victories and 30 other podium finishes to his credit, finished championship runner up to Cappellini in 2009, and has been third on five occasions.
Qemzi, however, still believes in his ability to be crowned world champion, and is equally determined to help Team Abu Dhabi extend a run of three successive world team triumphs, and also clinch the pole position championship.
“Our strategy is the same as it has been for the last five or six years, to go for the three titles,” said the 42 year old, who points out that Frenchman Philippe Chiappe was 51 when he snatched the first of his three world titles.
“He never gave up, and I won’t quit either. I still have a lot to give, and I intend to put my name in the record books.”
The village of San Nazzaro d’Ongina which welcomes back the F1H2O series is home to a 15th-century fortress, and it’s there that Team Abu Dhabi must repel some powerful challengers at the start of their twin title defence.
Among the biggest threats, no-one will be more motivated than Jonas Andersson who agonisingly lost the 2019 world title to Torrente on a countback and partners 23-year-old Finnish debutant Kalle Vippo for Team Sweden.
The vastly experienced Chiappe is back again to lead the China Chic Team assault alongside Peter Morin, while double world title winner Sami Selio combines with Filip Roms for Sharjah Team.
It was Chiappe who unwittingly played a key role as Torrente retained his world crown in the climax to the 2019 world championship on Sharjah’s Khalid Lagoon.
Andersson had looked set to claim the F1H2O title for the first time until the Frenchman’s boat damaged its trim on the last lap to let Torrente squeeze through to snatch second place in the dying moments of the race.
It meant Torrente and Andersson finished tied on 79 points after securing two victories each, with the American emerging as champion as he recorded one more second place finish.
There were jubilant scenes as Team Abu Dhabi hailed not only a second successive driver’s title for Torrente, who plunged into the water to celebrate, but also a fifth world team championship in eight years.
It meant Cappellini had delivered 11 world championships to Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club since taking charge in February 2015.