2018 UIM F1 H2O WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Grand Prix of Portimão, Portugal – May 18-20
Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi and Shaun Torrente line-up in three-driver team
- Mohammed Al-Mehairbi and Rashed Al-Romaithi to represent Emirati team in F4 Trophy
PORTIMÃO (PORTUGAL): Monday, May 14: Five months after securing the UIM F1 H20 Drivers’ Championship for the first time since 2006 and the Teams’ Championship for the first time since 2015, Team Abu Dhabi begins the defence of its titles at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portugal on the Arada River in Portimão.
The team running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) has a strong three-driver line-up for what promises to be a thrilling season of races, starting on the Portuguese Algarve coast and then visiting France, England, China, perhaps India, and culminating with the traditional racing finale in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in December.
The experienced Thani Al-Qemzi, defending UIM F2 World Champion Rashed Al-Qemzi and the American racer Shaun Torrente will represent Team Abu Dhabi, Torrente replacing defending champion Alex Carella in the team that dominated the series last season and clinched a clean sweep of titles on Khaled Lagoon last December.
Thani Al-Qemzi finished fourth in the points’ standings last year behind Carella, Philippe Chiappe and Erik Stark. Both Torrente and Rashed Al-Qemzi suffered their fair share of misfortune and bad luck and will be looking to bounce back strongly this season, although Torrente did claim pole position in Portugal last spring and is full of confidence after a recent test session.
Torrente said: “We managed to carry out some testing last week in Italy. The whole team is really looking forward to Portugal. The guys have been so focused and everyone is really prepared for the season. I think this is the most I have ever been prepared for the start of a racing season. The calendar looks good and I like the schedule for this weekend with everything moved to later in the afternoon, including testing and qualifying, so you don’t have to test at 10 in the morning and qualify at five in the afternoon and wait all day while the weather changes.
“The Portimão course is a little funky. It’s like a banana and you never get to get the boat going straight. It’s the way the river is with the big sand bar. It makes it different and to pick the correct propeller is a little more difficult. Last year I was on pole with my old team and that is the goal again this time.”
Several teams feature new faces in 2018. Carella has joined Ahmed Al-Hameli in Dubai’s Victory Team, while the ever-improving Pole Bartek Marszalek has teamed up with Norwegian Marit Strømøy in the Emirates Racing Team. Three-time World Champion and last year’s Portugal race winner Philippe Chiappe continues to head the CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team, while last year’s race runner-up Sami Selio and Filip Roms will be hoping for better fortune this year with their Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team.
Germany’s Mike Szymura has switched to the Maverick F1 operation, Erik Edin has replaced Erik Stark in Team Sweden alongside Jonas Andersson and German lady driver Simone Schuft has agreed a deal to join Francesco Cantando in the Blaze F1 Team for the first time.
Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. 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 and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC. The racing team runs under the umbrella of the ADIMSC, board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi and team manager Guido Cappellini.
Rashed Al-Romaithi and Mohammed Al-Mehairbi will represent Team Abu Dhabi in the UIM F4 Trophy that runs in conjunction with rounds of the UIM F1 H20 series and offers two 20-minute races per meeting. Al-Mehairbi finished third in the final Trophy standings in 2017 behind the Victory Team’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori and Jeremy Brisset of the F1 Atlantic Team. The Team Abu Dhabi duo face the likes of Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim, young Frenchman Tom Chiappe and British debutant Sam Whittle on this occasion.
Officials at the Associação de Portimão have deliberately revised the racing timetable to reduce the risk of running in the customary afternoon winds and practice, qualifying and the Grand Prix will run late in the afternoons on each day. Gales played havoc with the original timetable in 2017.
After routine administration and scrutineering formalities, drivers will be permitted a two-hour extra free practice session from 17.00hrs (20.00hrs UAE time) on Friday, May 18th. Official free practice will then start at 15.00hrs on Saturday (May 19th) and precedes F4 free practice, timed trials and the first of the F4 races, starting at 17.10hrs. F1 Qualifying then takes centre stage on the tricky river course from 18.00hrs.
The timetable will be repeated on Sunday afternoon (May 20th). Free practice precedes F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races, before the 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal roars into life at 18.00hrs (21.00hrs UAE time).
2018 Grand Prix of Portugal – provisional entries (unofficial):
Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi
Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi
Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi
Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team
Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team
Ahmed Al-Hameli (UAE) Victory Team
Alex Carella (ITA) Victory Team
Marit Strømøy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team
Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team
Grant Trask (AUS) F1 Atlantic Team
Duarte Benavente (PRT) F1 Atlantic Team
Erik Edin (SWE) Team Sweden
Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden
Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team
Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team
Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team
Simone Schuft (DEU) Blaze F1 Team
Mike Szymura (DEU) Maverick F1 Team
Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team