Grand Prix of Sharjah hangs in the balance for Team Abu Dhabi driver Torrente following crash

The American was not seriously injured but it is unclear if he will be pronounced fit to compete in Sunday’s finale at Khalid Lagoon

By Team KT

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Team Abu Dhabi's Shaun Torrente competes in Sharjah. - Supplied photo
Team Abu Dhabi's Shaun Torrente competes in Sharjah. - Supplied photo

Published: Sat 9 Dec 2023, 9:34 PM

Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Sweden’s Jonas Andersson set the stage for another classic battle to round off the UIM F1H2O World Championship in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Sharjah.

The two drivers who have dominated the championship for the last five seasons produced a spectacular qualifying tussle on Khalid Lagoon this morning, which ended with Andersson edging out Torrente by just a tenth of a second to take pole position.

However, it is unclear if the American will be fit to race following an accident during the afternoon’s second of two sprint races, run as an extra spectator attraction, on Khalid Lagoon.

Torrente was taken to hospital for medical checks following the accident when his boat was clipped by Victory Team’s Ahmad Al Fahim, and then collided with the rear of Finnish driver Filip Roms’s Mad Croc Gillman Racing boat

While Torrente was not seriously injured, he was being assessed by medical staff, and no decision was immediately taken on whether he will race on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Team Abu Dhabi technicians were working round-the-clock in an attempt to repair his badly damaged boat. Team manager Guido Cappellini said that despite the damage, the cockpit remained intact, underlining the ability of today’s F1H2O boats to withstand crashes.

Al Fahim, who initially won the sprint race from team-mate Erik Stark, was disqualified from the racing weekend for dangerous driving.

Stark was also given a yellow card warning after the two Victory drivers were deemed to have moved across Torrente’s racing line at the first turn.

Three-time world champion Torrente wanted a Grand Prix victory to round off a tough season which has seen Andersson reclaim the F1H2O title from him, and he was aiming for a powerful race start tomorrow afternoon to pile the pressure on the Swede.

If events in Sharjah in recent years are anything to go by, nothing can be taken for granted if the two great rivals get the chance to push each other to the limit again.

Twelve months ago in Sharjah, Torrente’s title hopes looked to have been shattered when a crash put him out of the race after just eight laps, only for Andresson to exit later with technical problems, handing the championship to the Team Abu Dhabi star.

That drama was matched on Khalid Lagoon in 2019 when Torrente squeezed into second place on the final lap to finish level with Andersson on championship points, and retain the title he had won in Sharjah the previous year on a countback.

Mathematically, five drivers – Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen, Victory Team’s Erik Stark, Frenchman Peter Morin from the China Ctic Team, and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi and Poland’s Bartek Marszalek – each have the chance to finish runner-up in the championship.

Currently holding second place, Zandbergen boosted his prospects by finishing fourth in qualifying on Saturday, while Stark, four points adrift of the Dutchman, just missed reaching the six-boat shootout and will start seventh on Sunday.

Veteran Emirati driver Al Qemzi, who has recorded two previous runner up finishes in the championship in his long career, as well as six third places, must aim for a flying start after qualifying in ninth position.

He will not give up without a fight for a podium place for himself, and for Team Abu Dhabi in the team championship. After a difficult time in qualifying 18th, his cousin and Abu Dhabi team-mate Rashed Al Qemzi will be looking to bounce back with a big performance tomorrow.

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Leaders Team Sweden edged closer to the team title after Andersson’s team-mate, Kalle Viippo, qualified powerfully in third place.

There are rarely any certainties in F1H2O racing, however, Sunday’ 21-boat starting line-up is the biggest for eight years, and with that many boats fighting for position, a circuit which has produced much drama over the years could provide more before another season ends.


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