Alex Carella on a charge for the Qatar Team in Doha Bay.
DOHA: The Qatar Team’s Shaun Torrente and Alex Carella began the defence of the host nation’s UIM F1 H20 World Championship crown in Doha Bay yesterday afternoon and they qualified in third and fourth positions for today’s Grand Prix of Qatar.
The dominant force in single hull marine sport racing last season, the Qatar Marine Sports Federation (QMSF)-supported team has left nothing to chance in the close season and the newly-liveried DACs were in fine form, but the Qatar pair were not able to stop Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson from claiming pole position with a lap of 41.34sec and two-time World Champion Sami Selio of Finland from taking second position.
Khalid Abdullah Al Kuwari and Mohammed Al Obaidly entered two boats in the first of two Doha races that kick-started the 2014 UIM F-4S Championship for the Eurofin Trophy.
After struggling in morning practice and qualifying in fourth and seventh positions, the Qatari duo finished the first of the weekend’s races in fourth and sixth.
Team Sweden’s Jesper Forss drew first blood with a 1.81-second win over defending champion Mike Szymura of Germany. Norwegian Jan Andre Landsnes barrel-rolled out of fourth place.
In the absence of Team Abu Dhabi and Caudwell Racing, 14 drivers from 10 countries lined up for the opening race of the season. An hour’s free practice was permitted on Friday morning after the extra session on Thursday had been cancelled.
The stint was yellow-flagged at the start while a turn buoy was positioned correctly and, when the action was given the green light, Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson set the target lap of 47.10sec. Torrente and Carella ran for 30 and 25 laps and Torrente topped the times in the dying minutes with a flying lap of 46.37sec.
The leading five protagonists in the title race all showed their hands early with top six practice times. It set the scene for a potentially thrilling qualifying session. Four boats would be eliminated in Q1, another four in Q2 and the top six would go through to the Q3 shoot-out.
Drivers were permitted several minutes extra practice after the course was slightly revised. Yousef Al Rubayan was in good form early on and set the target time of 44.55sec, only for Jonas Andersson to steal top spot with a flier of 43.32sec.
Torrente and Carella were struggling in sixth and 10th positions until the Italian nailed a lap of 44.20sec and climbed to third and was displaced by Torrente.
Andersson won the 20-minute Q1 session with that lap of 43.32sec, with the Qatar Team duo in third and fifth places. Marco Gambi, Bartek Marszalek, Erik Stark and Francesco Cantando failed to reach Q2.
Four more drivers would be eliminated in Q2. Andersson leapt to the top of the leader board again with a tour of 42.42sec as just over one second separated the top seven.
The Swede won the session with that lap at the chequered flag, as Ziwei Xiong, Marit Stromoy, Filip Roms and Duarte Benavente were eliminated. Carella and Torrente reached the six-boat shoot-out with the third and fifth quickest times.
Philippe Chiappe set the target time of 43.43sec on his first lap. Torrente was next up for the host nation and posted a storming time of 41.72sec to snatch the lead and then improved with a time of 41.44sec.
Sami Selio clocked 41.81sec on his opener and then slipped ahead of Torrente with a stunning time of 41.41sec. Carella’s first lap of 42.03sec fell just short and he was not able to improve on his second run and slipped into the rankings behind Selio and Torrente.
Yousef Al-Rubayan was next on to the water and the Kuwaiti recorded an opener of 46.25sec but an improved second tour of 43.77sec was not enough. Andersson was the only driver left to go and he snatched pole in dramatic fashion with a flying first lap of 41.34sec.
Sweden’s Jesper Forss qualified on pole position for the first of the weekend’s two F-4S races. The Team Sweden driver edged top spot by 0.36sec from the talented young Latvian Nikita Lijcs and gained the best starting position for the 20-minute race.