Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi secured pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna. Image Credit: Supplied

Olbia: Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi secured pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna to boost his challenge for a first drivers’ title in the UIM F1H2O World Championship.

The veteran Emirati driver, who has been trying to win the F1H2O crown since 2020, dominated today’s qualifying programme to grab the initiative for tomorrow afternoon’s fourth round of the championship in the historic Sardinian coastal city of Olbia.

Lying second in the series, Al Qemzi goes into the race with an ideal chance to reduce the 17-point lead held by his Abu Dhabi team-mate, Shaun Torrente, who qualified in third position, just adrift of young Italian Alberto Comparato.

It was a brilliant performance from Al Qemzi, who set the fastest time to reach the six-boat qualifying shoot-out, and then produced a record-breaking sub 30 second lap to clinch pole position.

A win tomorrow would give him a huge amount of momentum to carry into the two remaining Grand Prix to follow in Sharjah in December.

Three rounds

Two victories and a third place in the first three rounds had given Torrente his best ever start to a F1H2O season, and he was understandably upbeat on his arrival in Olbia.

Looking to extend his advantage over Al Qemzi, and defending world champion Jonas Andersson in third place, the American began the weekend by setting the fastest lap in Friday afternoon’s extra free practice session.

The session was cut short, however, when Sharjah Team‘s Sami Selio, still without a point after a series of setbacks this season, hit a submerged rock, damaging his boat’s gear case and propeller.

Officials responded by making modifications to the race course, and Comparato was fastest in this morning’s free practice, with Al Qemzi and Torrente setting the next two best lap times to underline Team Abu Dhabi’s readiness for qualifying.

This afternoon’s opening qualifying phase was split into two groups, and the first session was yellow-flagged when Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen, winner of the previous round in San Nazzaro, spun out dramatically, ending his bid to reach the shoot-out.

Starting in the second group, Al Qemzi produced a brilliant late lap to set fastest time, edging out Andersson, the driver who beat him to last year’s world title by a single point. Torrente went through with the fourth best time.

2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship leading positions

1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) 52pts

2. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) 35pts

3. Jonas Andersson (SWE) 31pts

4. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NED) 27pts

5. Peter Morin (FRA) 21pts

6. Alec Weckstrom (FIN) 21pts