Former Victory Team driver Shaun Torrente (extreme left) will be aiming to get a perfect combination with teammates Thani Al Qamzi (extreme right) and Rashid Al Qamzi (second right) as Team Abu Dhabi starts the defence of the world title in Portimao, Portugal this weekend. Image Credit: Courtesy: Team Abu Dhabi

Dubai: Team Abu Dhabi driver Shaun Torrente is feeling the most prepared heading into the start of the 2018 UIM F1H2O World Championship in Portimao, Portugal, this weekend.

Torrente, who made a surprise switch to Team Abu Dhabi from Victory Team at the end of last season in Sharjah, now believes that the work put in during the course of the last few months will fetch huge dividends as the team from the capital starts the defence of their title at this week’s Grand Prix of Portimao.

“I feel most prepared and ready than I have ever been for any season,” Torrente told Gulf News from Portugal on Thursday.

“I can now see why they [Team Abu Dhabi] have been champions. It simply boils down to the amount of work that they do. It is like a long-term investment in time, and all this work pays off as the season progresses,” he added.

Torrente helped Victory Team make their F1 debut a few years back. But during the course of the season-ending Grand Prix of Sharjah last year, the American pilot announced his departure to Team Abu Dhabi, who went on to bag a double — Alex Carella taking the drivers’ title for the fourth time and the team winning the teams’ crown for 2017.

“We never stopped working after Sharjah,” Torrente said.

“It has been a long five months since then and I am settled in and have got adequate time to know everyone within the set-up. I am very happy to be here and I am excited for the season to start. This is going to be a totally new season for everybody and we at Team Abu Dhabi will have the additional responsibility of going in as the defending champions,” he added.

Joining the American in Team Abu Dhabi this season will be the experienced Thani Al Qamzi along with defending UIM F2 World Champion Rashid Al Qamzi.

Thani finished fourth in the points’ standings last year behind Carella, Philippe Chiappe and Erik Stark even as Torrente and Rashid suffered their fair share of misfortune and bad luck during the year.

“This year is going to be different for everyone. I am confident in what we have at Team Abu Dhabi. We have a great product and a great system to put things into practice,” Torrente confided.

“Personally, I have been just waiting for all the talk to stop and the racing to start,” he added.

Organisers in Portimao have made minor alterations in the race programme this year. After routine administration and scrutineering formalities, drivers will be permitted a two-hour extra free practice session from 17.00hrs (8 pm UAE) on Friday.

Official free practice will then start at 15.00hrs (6 pm UAE) on Saturday and precedes F4 free practice, timed trials and the first of the F4 races, starting at 17.10hrs (8.10 pm UAE). F1 qualifying then takes centre-stage on the tricky river course from 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE). The timetable will be repeated on Sunday afternoon with F1 free practice preceding F4 practice, timed trials and the second of the F4 races, before the 2018 Grand Prix of Portugal roars into life at 18.00hrs (9 pm UAE).