Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi powered his way to a superb victory in the Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna. Image Credit: Supplied

Olbia: Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi powered his way to a superb victory in the Italian Grand Prix of Regione Sardegna today to set the stage for a thrilling climax to the 2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship in the UAE.

The veteran Emirati driver followed up his record-breaking pole position success 24 hours earlier by leading from start to finish in Olbia for a 2.97 seconds winning margjn over Sweden’s reigning world champion, Jonas Andersson.

The result moved Al Qemzi to within nine points of his Abu Dhabi team-mate and championship leader, Shaun Torrente, who secured the third podium position to maintain his bid for a third F1H2O drivers title.

It all adds up to a fascinating climax to the season in Sharjah where the championship concludes with back-to-back Grand Prix on December 16 and 18, with Andersson nine points away from Al Qemzi in third place.

Chasing his first world drivers’ crown in a 22-year career, Al Qemzi already looks assured of a fifth successive team title in partnership with Torrente, as the Team Abu Dhabi duo hold a 63 point lead over Team Sweden.

The Emirati had already earned a place in the record books in qualifying when he set the first sub 30 second lap time in modern F1H2O powerboat racing history to clinch pole position.

It was all change today as the race course was re-shaped, the right hander on the back straight removed to allow for better lapping, resulting in 14 of the 15 qualifiers going below 30 seconds in the morning’s free practice session.

A new start procedure introduced for the Grand Prix saw the top ten boats from qualifying starting first under lights, with the remaining five setting off five seconds later.

Good start

On one of the shortest race courses ever seen in the championship, a good start was vital, and Al Qemzi was up to the challenge, shutting out Alberto Comparato at the first turn to take a clear lead.

A yellow flag soon came out on when Finn Kalle Viippo spun out, but Al Qemzi made a superb re-start to re-establish and gradually extend his lead as the battle for the other podium places grew behind him.

Andersson moved ahead of Comparato into second place with a clever overtaking move on the 19th lap, and ten laps later the young Italian, under pressure from Torrente, lost third place when he went out with mechanical issues.

There were no problems for Al Qemzi, however, as he produced an immaculate performance all the way to the chequered flag. Meanwhile, a run of bad luck continued for Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio who went out with technical problems after 59 of 70 laps.

2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship leading positions

1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) 64pts

2. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) 55pts

3. Jonas Andersson (SWE) 46pts

4. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NED) 34pts

5. Alec Weckstrom (FIN) 30pts

6. Peter Morin (FRA) 21pts