Abu Dhabi: Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qamzi tamed the waters of Abu Dhabi Corniche to create history by becoming the first Arab driver ever to win the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi.
The Emirati took control of the proceedings once he took the lead on the first lap and then staved off a challenge from Frenchman Peter Morin to seal the win by 0.91 seconds on Saturday.
It was also Al Qamzi’s first win in the UIM F1 H2O World Championship since Sharjah in 2012 and it had elevated him to the second place in the World Championship standings.
“I made a good start and I went far away from everyone and I keep a little bit away,” he said. “I kept my line. My boat was strong. I felt relaxed and I pushed hard from that. The last five laps, I see that he [Morin] stayed behind me and then I went very fast. Insha’allah, next week I will do the same. This is my country.
“I have always been nervous here and never had any favours and now I made it. This is a fantastic win for the whole team. We are all so happy.”
Al Qamzi now trails his teammate Shaun Torrente by a mere three points at the top of the standings. The duo will be locking horns with Erik Stark in the final race in Sharjah in a week’s time to decide on the championship.
Torrente finished the race in a disappointing sixth position following technical issues. However, a non-finish for Stark after 29 laps has boosted the chances for Torrente and Al Qamzi to seal in the championship. Whichever of them wins the title in Sharjah will be the new champion.
Finland’s Sami Selio also put his disappointing season behind him to claim third for Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team. Marit Stromoy of the Emirates Racing Team finished fourth and Italian veteran Francesco Cantando was a fine fifth.
Team Abu Dhabi also sealed their third UIM F1 H2O Teams’ Championship title in four seasons. Their previous wins had come in 2015 and 2017. The success was also the third Teams’ title for the team operating out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) under the management of Salem Al Rumaithi, board member and general manager of the ADIMSC, and 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini.
“After 18 years, Thani has won the race in our home,” said a jubilant Cappellini. “It has been an important day because we have won the Teams’ World Championship. The Drivers’ Championship is not closed. Now in Sharjah it will be one incredible game for our three drivers. The first goal today was to win the Teams’ Championship and now we can focus on next weekend.”
However, on the day of success, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammad Al Mehairbi suffered a setback to his F4 Trophy hopes with a disappointing seventh place in the second race.
Frenchman Tom Chiappe secured a second win and now jointly hold the championship lead with Germany’s Max Stilz. England’s Sam Whittle moved up to third in the standings, while Al Mehairbi now heads to the final round in fourth place, seven points behind the joint leaders.
2018 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — result:
1. Thani Al Qamzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 46min, 44sec; 2. Peter Morin (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team +0.91s; 3. Sami Selio (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team +31.43s; 4. Marit Stromoy (NOR) Emirates Racing Team +32.69s; 5. Francesco Cantando (ITA) Blaze F1 Team +36.29s; 6. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi +46.27s; 7. Bartek Marszalak (POL) Emirates Racing Team 1 lap; 8. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Tea 1 lap; 9. Cedric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick F1 Team 3 laps; 10. Filip Roms (FIN) Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team 4 laps.