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UIM F1H2O Worlds: Torrente ready for Sharjah battle after Andersson edges to pole position

by Narayan Marar 9 Dec 2023 06:08 PST
Team Abu Dhabi's Shaun Torrente flying in Sharjah © Team Abu Dhabi / Simon Palfrader

Team Abu Dhabi's Shaun Torrente and Sweden's Jonas Andersson have set the stage for another classic battle to round of the UIM F1H2O World Championship in tomorrow'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.

Three-time world champion Torrente wants a Grand Prix victory to round off a tough season which has seen Andersson reclaim the F1H2O title from him, and he will be 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 when the two great rivals 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 today, while Stark, four points adrift of the Dutchman, just missed reaching the six-boat shootout and will start seventh tomorrow.

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.

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

There are rarely any certainties in F1H2O racing, however. Tomorrow's 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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