Abu Dhabi: Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi says he will give everything to secure a dream title triumph when the 2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship reaches a grand finale in Sharjah this weekend.
Chasing a maiden F1H2O drivers’ crown, the Emirati heads into the Grand Prix of Sharjah double-header needing to wipe out a nine-point lead held by teammate Shaun Torrente, and hold off a big challenge from Sweden’s reigning champion, Jonas Andersson, another nine points away in third.
Al Qemzi, a three-time winner on Khalid Lagoon, is relishing the opportunity to end his 20-year wait to be crowned world champion on home waters in the UAE, and to give Team Abu Dhabi a fifth consecutive team title.
“I hope this is the season where I achieve my goal to become world champion,” said the veteran driver. “It will be difficult, but I’ll be giving everything to achieve the dream.
“Khalid Lagoon is one of the most beautiful places where we race, and one of the best circuits for me. It gives you options, and racing is always very fast. Of course, I want to win for myself, but I also want to work with Shaun to secure the team title again.”
Al Qemzi gave himself a fighting chance with a superb victory in the penultimate round of the championship in Italy in October.
His first target is to clinch a record-breaking fourth Grand Prix victory in Sharjah on Friday to set up a dramatic climax in Sunday’s final race of the season.
Torrente, who claimed his 2018 and 2019 world titles in dramatic style in Sharjah without winning the final Grand Prix, followed up victories in France and Italy with two more podiums to top this season’s standings.
“I’ve had a really amazing season,” said the 2016 winner in Sharjah. “I’ve been on the podium in every race, and if I continue like that, I have an excellent chance of a third world championship.
“I love racing in Sharjah. But at the same time, Thani and Jonas have both had success there. We’ve all won races there, so it’s very interesting. Obviously, I would like to win the first race and really lock it down, and maybe even clinch the championship, but we’ll just see how it goes.
In the build-up to Sharjah, Torrente and Al Qemzi have undergone intensive training together in Abu Dhabi under the guidance of team manager Guido Cappellini.
“Thani is my closest rival, but we’re going to maintain our friendship and rivalry within the team and push each other,” said Torrente. “If anybody else is going to win the title, I want it to be Thani. But I want my third title really badly, and I’ll push hard to get it.
16 international racers
“Jonas will always be a threat until he is mathematically eliminated. We’ll just take it one race at a time and, hopefully, come out on top, and win the championship.”
Under the patronage of Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Executive Council, the Sharjah World Championship Week began, which includes the final leg of the 21 UIM F1H2O World Championship. The powerboat Grand Prix of Sharjah is being held on Khalid Lagoon with the participation of top 16 international racers.
The opening address for this year’s week of high-octane adrenalin was made during a press conference organised by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) in the presence of Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCDTA; Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Vice-Chairman of the Sharjah International Marine Sports Club (SIMSC); Nicolo Di San Germano, International Promoter of Formula 1 Powerboat Racing, in addition to racers and an exuberant crowd.
The 16 international racers in the championship will compete along a 2,057m circuit for the coveted Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Sharjah title and the Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of the Middle East title on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, wrapping up the championship’s world tour for 2022.
During his keynote speech, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCDTA, stressed that hosting the final event in the Formula 1 World Powerboat Championship season in the emirate of Sharjah expresses the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to bolster the emirate’s status as a city for global tourism, and a prime destination for water sports enthusiasts. He noted that the authority puts the safety of the competitors as a top priority in the championship and expects it to be a smooth and exciting race.
Al Midfa commented, saying: “Sharjah has always achieved great success in the sports tourism sector as part of its continuous mission to diversify the emirate’s development portfolio. Through investing in our attractive and expansive marine environment we are able to host world championships, including this premier speedboat race.”
He pointed out that water sports are part of the country’s history and heritage, from the culture of traditional boats to the emirate achieving top spots in international competitions.
2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship leading positions:
1. Shaun Torrente (UAE) 64pts
2. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE) 55 pts
3. Jonas Andersson (SWE) 46pts
4. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NED) 34pts
5. Alec Weckstrom (FIN) 30pts
6. Peter Morin (FRA) 21pts