Torrente, Al Qemzi prepared for big challenge in season opener
26 March, 2019: Team Abu Dhabi are prepared for a major challenge when they launch their bid for a second successive double title triumph in the opening round of the 2019 UIM F1H2O World Championship in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
Reigning world champion Shaun Torrente and Emirati Thani Al Qemzi who finished third in last year’s individual standings head a powerful nine-team line up in Dammam for the return of the series to Saudi after a 15-year gap.
Among their biggest rivals will be France’s three time-world champion Philippe Chiappe and son-in-law Peter Morin who finished runners-up to the Abu Dhabi duo in last year’s Teams Championship for CTIC F1 Shenzhen China.
Chiappe, who had to settle for fifth place during a frustrating 2018 campaign, is determined to launch a powerful assault on the title while Morin showed with his fourth position and two podiums last season that he is also a major force to be reckoned with.
They and the rest of the opposition will find the Team Abu Dhabi duo in no mood to give way, however, as they look to build on an impressive combined record which includes seven UIM F1H2O race wins for Torrente, eight for Al Qemzi and 40 podium places together.
“I’m very excited to be starting the season as world champion for the first time, and of course my target is to capture the title again and make sure Team Abu finish the year as champions,” said Torrente, who will carry the prestigious No.1 plate. “It’s going to be tough to do that, but the team has prepared meticulously for the new season and we’re looking forward to getting things under way.”
Al Qemzi, who’s own world title hopes last season were ended by engine failure during the last round in Sharjah, said: “We’re committed to keeping the team title in Abu Dhabi, and that’s the priority, although we both obviously have our individual ambitions.
“It’s good to see Saudi back as a race venue in the championship and I’m looking forward to starting the season, hopefully with the right result for myself and the team.”
Also returning to action with Team Abu in Saudi in the hunt for the F4-S Trophy are Mohammed Al-Mehairbi who is looking to build on his fourth place overall finish last season and Rashed Al-Remeithi.
Sponsored by Etihad Airways, Team Abu Dhabi is supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of ADIMSC.
The racing team runs under the umbrella of the ADIMSC, board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi and team manager Guido Cappellini.
Among the changes to this year’s UIM F1H2O team line-ups, American newcomer Greg Foster has joined Blaze Performance to partner Italy’s Francesco Cantando as the championship’s most experienced driver starts his 24th season. Another Italian, Alberto Comparato makes his F1H2O debut in Dammam with Portuguese outfit F1 Atlantic alongside Duarte Benavente.
Action on the 2.23km Dammam Circuit begins with an extra free practice session at 13:15hrs (local time). A second practice session on Friday morning is followed by Official Qualifying at 16:00hrs, with the final practice session on Saturday morning and the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix Saudi Arabia roaring to life at 16:00hrs.
2019 UIM F1H2O World Championship teams:
Team Abu Dhabi: 1. Shaun Torrente (USA) / 2. Thani Al Qemzi (UAE)
Victory Team: 3. Ahmed Al Hameli (UAE) / 44. Alex Carella (ITA)
CTIC F1 Shenzhen China: 7. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) / 8. Peter Morin (FRA)
F1 Atlantic: 9. Alberto Comparato (ITA) / 10. Duarte Benavente (POR)
Sharjah Team: 11. Sami Selio (FIN) / 12. Filip Roms (FIN)
Team Amaravati: 14. Jonas Andersson (SWE) / 15. Erik Edin (SWE)
Blaze Performance: 36. Greg Foster (USA) / 37. Francesco Cantando (ITA)
Emirates Racing: 50. Marit Stromoy (NOR) / 77. Bartek Marszalek (POL)
Maverick F1: 73. Cedric Deguisne (FRA) / 74. Beranger Robart (FRA)