Thani Al Qemzi was second fastest in qualifying shoot-out.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
Team Abu Dhabi have given themselves a fighting chance of a winning start to the 2021 UIM F1H2O World Championship in tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Europe in Italy.
Emirati driver Thani Al Qemzi was second fastest in today’s qualifying shoot-out with team-mate and defending world champion Shaun Torrente fourth quickest as young Italian Alberto Comparato grabbed his first career pole position.
With the vastly experienced Al Qemzi bidding to claim his first individual world title and Torrente looking to complete a driver’s championship hat-trick this season, the defending team champions had been hoping to dominate the three-stage qualifying event.
They remain the team to beat, however, and Al Qemzi will be aiming to go one better tomorrow after finishing runner up to his current Team Abu Dhabi manager, Guido Cappellini, the last time the F1H2O series visited Italy 15 years ago.
Al Qemzi, who was championship runner up to Cappellini in 2009, has finished third five times and believes he still has the speed and determination to land a first world title.
He underlined this earlier in the day by setting the fastest time in free practice ahead of Norway’s Marit Stromoy and Torrente.
Stromoy, the first woman to earn a F1H2O pole position, landed her maiden Grand Prix victory in Sharjah in 2015 and has started the 2021 season with her own team alongside Poland’s Bartek Marszalek. She was fifth quickest in qualifying today.
Like Torrente, Finn Sami Selio is targeting a third world crown as he continues his Team Sharjah partnership with compatriot Filip Roms, and he was third fastest in qualifying.
Setting the sixth quickest qualifying time was French veteran Philippe Chiappe who already has three world titles to his credit and is also targeting another championship triumph in a powerful China Chic Team pairing with fellow-countryman Peter Morin.
No driver is more highly motivated than Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson who lost the world title to Torrente on a countback in 2019 and is partnering 23-year-old Finnish debutant Kalle Vippo.
Andersson has it all to do tomorrow, however, after failing to reach the six-boat final qualifying stage today.
Torrente is relishing another world title test after a long break owing to the pandemic. “I’m very excited to be back racing with Team Abu Dhabi this year,” he said. “All of us are looking forward to continuing our winning ways and defending our championship title.
“Like everyone else, it was difficult to be away from the sport for so long, but that period away may have given me even more energy towards getting back in the boat and winning races.”
Welcoming back the F1H2O series, the village of San Nazzaro d'Ongina is home to a 15th-century fortress, and Team Abu Dhabi’s two boats underwent two days of extensive testing there, with an emphasis on engine tuning, prior to today’s action.
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