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Al Qemzi reaches new milestone as Stark wins in Vietnam to take lead in title race

by Narayana Marar 31 Mar 00:38 PDT
Team Abu Dhabi's Rashed Al Qemzi - climbed 7 places on the day - 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship © Simon Palfrader

Team Abu Dhabi's Thani Al Qemzi reached a new milestone in his illustrious career today as Victory Team's Erik Stark won the Grand Prix of Bình Ð?nh-Vietnam to take the lead in the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship.

Stark's hard fought race win from reigning world champion Jonas Andersson saw him replace Sharjah Team's first round winner, Rusty Wyatt, at the top of the standings after the Canadian finished fourth on the Thi Nai Bay circuit.

Making his 154th Grand Prix start, Al Qemzi produced a battling performance to climb three places on the day and secure sixth position, in the process taking his career points haul in the championship past the 1,000 points mark.

It was a reminder of what might have been but for a difficult time in qualifying, and that Al Qemzi - now on 1,001pts - is still in the mood to extend his record of ten Grand Prix victories and 45 podium finishes since his debut in 2000.

Team-mate Rashed Al Qemzi equally produced a tenacious performance after starting from the back of the 18-boat line-up on the pontoon, gradually rising through the field over the 35 laps to finish 11th.

The four-time F2 world champion was standing in for young Italian driver Alberto Comparato who was rested by Abu Dhabi team manager Guido Cappellini following his crash during qualifying.

The championship next heads for the Grand Prix of Italy in Olbia, Sardinia on 14-16 June, two weeks before Al Qemzi is due to begin the defence of his F2 world title in Brindisi, Italy.

Stark was always in control following a superb start from pole position, although he had to be at his best to hold off Andersson, who is now level with Wyatt in the championship, eight points adrift of the Victory team driver. Frenchman Peter Morin took the third podium spot on the day.

Andersson's team-mate, Estonian driver Stefan Arand, was an early race casualty when he went out after six laps with a broken propeller, while Sharjah Team's Filip Roms and American Brent Dillard both exited following a spectacular 17th-lap collision.

Vietnam's inaugural Grand Prix, adding a second new Asian destination to the championship following Indonesia's arrival last season, has extended a fascinating journey for Thani Al Qemzi which began in Sharjah 24 years ago.

Since then, he as underlined his powerboat racing pedigree by twice finishing runner up in the championship, most recently in 2001, and also in 2009 when he was beaten to the title by Cappellini, his current team manager. Al Qemzi has also finished third on four occasions.

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