F1H2O teams face showdown in Italy when series returns to Sardinia

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This weekend’s Sardegna Region Grand Prix at Olbia on the Italian island of Sardinia begins today, a late addition to the 2022 Union Internationale Motonautique F1H2O World Championship season as the race was not at 100 per cent following the Italian Grand Prix races a few weeks ago was confirmed with registration, inspections and training and includes qualifying sessions on Saturday in preparation for the final race on Sunday.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente won the season-opening race in France in June and will be hoping to do the same in Sardinia on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Xavier Bertin/F1H2O

According to a press release from F1H2O, the race – round four of the championship – also marks F1H2O’s return to the Mediterranean island for the first time since American driver Scott Gillman, who now runs Gillman Racing, won the race in 2004.

Going into the weekend, Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente currently holds a 17-point lead over teammate Thani Al-Qemzi in the points standings and a win for the Florida-based rider in northeastern Sardinia would put him in a leading position in only the back-to-back race finale in December in Sharjah, UAE.

Victories in France and in Race 1 at San Nazzaro in Italy, coupled with a third place finish in Race 2 at San Nazzaro, has put Torrente ahead of Al-Qemzi, who finished second in races one and three. The consistency of the experienced Team Abu Dhabi duo has also given the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club-based company a sizeable lead in the teams’ championship.

Still, signs from the last race weekend in Italy suggest that the outcome of the final three rounds of the year could be even harder to predict.

“It’s the best start to the season I’ve had – there was 60 points available and I’ve got 52, so it’s a pretty good start,” said Torrente, who stayed in Italy for an extra day at the end of September to test and build on it to prepare Olbia. “We just have to keep going and get more points on Sunday. The feeling in the team is good. Our goal is to win every race.”

Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio showed in Italy he has the pace to reverse his losing streak. The flying Finn was fastest in free practice and qualified second behind Torrente for the final race. However, two accidents sidelined the two-time world champion in Italy, but his baba has now been repaired and Selio is ready to go.

Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandenberg arrives for his first F1H2O Grand Prix victory in late September in San Nazzaro, Italy. Photo courtesy of Vittorio Ubertone/F1H2O

As he struggled to convert absolute speed into race results, Selio’s teammate Ferdinand Zandbergen was the revelation of the first half of the season. The Dutchman benefited from a somewhat surprising pole position on lap three and led from start to finish on the Po River to seal his first F1H2O race win of his career and jump to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.

“I was speechless after pole position in Italy. Whether I won or not, my weekend couldn’t have been better.”

said Zandbergen. “Now we have to keep the momentum going. I’m aiming for another pole and another win.”

Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson and Kalle Viippo are currently third and seventh respectively and Andersson is well positioned to defend his world title. The veteran sits 21 points adrift of Torrente and four adrift of Al-Qemzi and needs to build on the second place he earned in Race 1 at San Nazzaro. Viippo has been in the points at each of the three races and will look to build on those fundamentals this weekend.

Peter Morin and three-time world champion Phillipe Chiappe had mixed fortunes in the first three races of the year. Morin was on the podium in France but was disqualified from the second of the Italian races after struggling towards the back of the field when forced to change his boat before the race. However, he drove the fastest lap in the third race. Technical problems plagued Chiappe in Italy and the former series pacesetter currently sits a surprising 12th in the points classification.

Alec Weckstrom has had an impressive start to his F1H2O career. He finished fifth in the series last year and is currently sixth in the 2022 rankings. The 24-year-old Finn, who benefited from the experience of team manager and four-time world champion Scott Gillman, finished fourth and third in the first two races, but was knocked out in the third race due to electrical problems with his DAC.

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