Dubai: Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente has dedicated his season-opening victory in Portimao, Portugal to his late friend and team engineer Antony Del Pin.

Torrente led from pole position to win his second straight Grand Prix of Portugal on the Arade River in Portimao late on Sunday and start the defence of his world crown in true style.

Torrente fought the odds of racing without a trim on his boat to keep teammate and good friend Thani Al Qamzi at bay till the very end. “This one is for Antony,” Torrente said as he left his boat after finishing 1.38 secs clear of Al Qamzi.

Team Amaravati’s Jonas Andersson ran a patient 48 laps to come in third, while CTIC F1 Shenzhen China Team’s young driver Peter Morin nudged his way past the Emirates Racing Team duo of Marit Stromoy and Bartek Marszalek. The competition was so close that the gap separating the first five finishers was a mere 5.88 seconds.

“A race can’t get any better. That’s the beauty of competition. But at this moment, my thoughts are with my friend Antony as he looks at us from above,” Torrente said.

UIM F1H2O and Team Abu Dhabi engineer Del Pin was killed in a motorbike accident in the middle of March. The 25-year-old from Udine in Italy had enjoyed success with the F1H2O Abu Dhabi Team during their back-to-back World Championship wins taken by Alex Carella and Torrente.

Del Pin was the radioman for his brother David — who in fact came in to strap Torrente in the Portugal race — when he made his F1H2O debut for Abu Dhabi in 2015. When David left the team to race in UIM F2, Antony stayed on to engineer for Carella, Torrente and Rashid Al Qamzi. “We won’t forget you Antony,” Torrente exclaimed looking upwards.

“This was not a clean race for me as I had to deal with the trim problems, but I just hung on and used all the tricks I had to do the best I could and bring in valuable points for Team Abu Dhabi. My entire crew did a fantastic job to help me deliver once again. I just feel so blessed to be here with such a fantastic team,” he added.

“Being No. 1 is always the goal and hopefully we can keep it rolling till the end of the year,” he exclaimed.

Victory Team’s Ahmad Al Hameli produced a battling performance from 17th off the dock moving up through the field of 19 to finish in seventh. But it was another disappointing outing for teammate and former four-time world champion Alex Carella, who was forced back into the pits on Lap 18 with a holed left sponson.

Arguably the drive of the afternoon went to F1 Atlantic’s 21-year-old rookie driver Alberto Comparato, who came in from 19th to eighth to pick up his first world championship points.

Overall standings at the end of the first round of the 2019 UIM F1H2O World Championships held in Portimao, Portugal, on Sunday: 1. Shaun Torrente (20pts); 2. Thani Al Qamzi (15); 3. Jonas Andersson (12); 4. Peter Morin (9); 5. Marit Stromoy (7); 6. Bartek Marszalek (5); 7. Ahmad Al Hameli (4); 8. Alberto Comparato (3); 9. Erik Stark (2); 10. Sami Selio (1).