ABU DHABI - December 31, 2011 - Italian Alex Carella of the Qatar Team used both his driving skills and youthful exuberance to overtake his wily veteran teammate Jay Price of the USA with a victory in Abu Dhabi in early December to win the 2011 UIM F1 H2O World Championship for power boating for the first time in only his second season in the series.
The young 26 year-old racer from Piacenza, Italy while trailing his teammate for most of the season, ran a smart and steady campaign, winning twice from pole position in both Kazan at the Grand Prix of Russia and along the corniche in Abu Dhabi.
Carella virtually locked his title away, when on the first lap of the final Grand Prix in Sharjah, he was able to out duel his teammate into second place. The two of them went into the left hand corner with Price making a desperate move that didn't work taking both drivers out of the race and handing Alex the title even before both DAC boats stopped barrel rolling in turn three.
"It was a very fulfilling season and we had success when we needed too," said Alex. "Jay was an excellent teammate all season and its too bad it ended the way it did on the very first lap in Sharjah. I was looking forward to going toe to toe with him for all 37 laps but I'll take the championship and am thankful to my whole team for making this a truly dream season for me."
The 2011 campaign started out as if the Qatar Team was going to run away and hide from the competition throughout the full ten month schedule. Jay won the opening two events. First, at the Qatar Teams home event in Doha in the month of March, and again at the next Grand Prix in Portimao, Portugal in May passing Alex for his 11th career win.
The string Qatar Team success continued at the third event of the season. Alex, won easily from pole position. Meanwhile, Jay, racing what many thought was the drive of the season, charged all the way up from 15th on the grid to finish third giving the Qatar organization their third straight Grand Prix where both drivers finished on the podium at days end.
Alex finished the season with 84 points on the strength of two wins, two second places and a pair of fifth's and only failing to finish crashing out with his teammate at the final event.
The final standings differential Jay had with Alex and how he lost on the title, was his disqualification at the Grand Prix of China in Liuzhou.
On the very last lap, Jay misjudged the right hand buoy with three corners to go and lost out on a third place finish giving him no points and opening the door for his teammate Alex to have a chance to chase him down for the title. Alex did just that in Abu Dhabi out qualifying him and winning. Jay was third that day and finished second in the championship for the second straight year with 79 points.
"The difference between a great pass in a race and a miscalculation and disaster is a millisecond and that's what happened in Sharjah," said Jay.
"I thought I had an avenue and it closed and before I knew it, the season was finished. Alex is a great teammate and I couldn't have asked for a better team to work with this season. It was great to lead the championship for over 36 weeks I just wished I could have finished it the way I wanted to for myself and my team."
While Jay was racking up five straight podiums in every race he finished in 2011 another team that started slowly came on and dominated most of the last half of the season when their drivers caught fire themselves.
Team Abu Dhabi, which welcomed their two talented drivers Thani Al Qamzi and Ahmed Al Hameli back together for the fifth straight season, had no answer for their rivals from Doha in the first half of the year.
However, once both Thani and Ahmed hit their stride in their BABA boats at the mid-season mark, they became almost unbeatable, with Ahmed winning two of the final four events including a dominating one-two finish on the podium in Sharjah.
Thani, finished third in the championship with 75 points. He completed all seven races winning at Liuzhou in October and being a late season player for the championship with his four podium performances throughout the year.
Ahmed set the water on fire in qualifying in the second half of the season. He took three pole's in his last four starts. Ahmed, like Jay Price, finished on the podium in every race he finished this season with a pair of wins and two second place finishes coming home fourth in the championship with 70 points.
The 33 year-old driver from Abu Dhabi could have had even more points had he not crashed out in Portugal and was disqualified from running the next race in Kiev by the officials for his actions on the race course on the Arade River.
This opened the door for a special treat for all race fans of the UIM F1 H2O world tour. For Team Abu Dhabi Team Manager and four-time World Champion Scott Gillman came out of semi-retirement to race for the first time since 2007 for Team Abu Dhabi replacing the suspended Ahmed Al Hameli.
Despite never running in the BABA boat before this weekend, Scott qualified a respectable eighth and just missed taking his 56th career podium when fellow American Jay Price passed him with just a few laps to go in Kazan to capture third with Scott settling for a fine fourth.
While the Qatar Team held off Team Abu Dhabi for the Team Championship 172-154, finishing strongly as well was the CTIC China Team with 63 points. Led by French veteran pilot Philippe Chiappe who was fifth in the championship with 47 points and gaining confidence throughout the season.
Chiappe, driving a new French built "Moore" hull had three podium third place finishes (Doha, Liuzhou and Sharjah) combined with one other top five performance in Kazan. The driver from Rouen was penalized in Portimao and failed to finish only in Abu Dhabi to complete a solid year and bigger hopes for 2012.
Teammate Pierre Lundin of Sweden had all sorts of gremlins early on. The driver from Eskilstuna, started with three straight failures to finish, then he turned it around, going three straight finishes before dropping out at the last race in Sharjah. His best performance of the season came in Abu Dhabi when he qualified 10th and finished fourth. He finished the year tied for 10th in the drivers table with 16 points.
The Singha F1 Team was fourth in the championship with 44 points mostly delivered by the veteran number one driver Francesco Cantando who was sixth in the drivers championship with 42 points.
For this two time runner-up in the title chase back in 2000 and 2001, Francesco's best events were a pair of fourth's at the Grand Prix of Ukraine in Kiev and Sharjah in the UAE driving his own newly designed BLAZE boat.
The driver from Milan finished his 16th season in F1 and now in 134 starts has 12 victories and is third all time with 41 podiums and 79 top-10 finishes in his career.
Fellow Italian Stefano Paoletti joined him for the first race of the season in Doha finishing 13th in his first ever F1 Grand Prix.
Another young Italian star Ivan Brigada joined the team for one race in Portugal qualifying 12th and finishing a respectable 10th in the Grand Prix.
Italian veteran Valerio Lagiannella was at Francesco's side for the remaining races of the season picking up his first point of the season at the very last event in Sharjah for the Lecco driver who expects to be back for 2012.
Coming into the season the defending World Champion Mad Croc F1 Team looked to be solid with two time World Titlist Sami Selio back leading the team along with his new teammate Davide Padovan from Italy.
The Finnish superstar, Selio, never really got into the groove all year long except for the opening event in Doha where he earned pole position and led, until, breaking down. This opened the floodgates to a season where Sami would play catch up throughout the campaign finally finishing tied for seventh with his teammate with 21 points.
Sami, had one podium in Kiev and then had his year shortened after a horrendous accident at the Grand Prix of China. While at full speed, he crashed the boat, going in nose first and stopping immediately on the front straight while traveling at over 200 kilometers per hour. The driver from Helsinki sat out the rest of the year to rest and recover hoping to start back in Doha this March chasing a third title.
The young Italian Padovan, who was runner-up to rookie of the year honors in 2010, finished all four of his races in the top ten with his best day being in Liuzhou where he finished fourth. His learning curve will continue and he's looking more comfortable in the BABA boat all the time as he chases his first career podium in 2012.
Also joining the team late in the season was the first ever driver from Kuwait to race in F1 Yousef Al Rubayan. The talented driver from Holi, came over from F2 and earned his first two points in his first ever event in Abu Dhabi. His 11th place in Sharjah saw his tied for 18th in title with two points in the ledger books for a driver who has a great future.
Team Sweden started the season in Doha with a solid line-up of Swedish driver Jonas Andersson and USA rookie Shaun Torrente hoping to make a statement before seasons end. The two-time North American champ Torrente, captured a fine fourth place just ahead of his veteran teammate in Qatar. This sadly was a mirage as both drivers fell from a bis of exuberance followed by disappointment and back again as the season marched along.
Andersson, a winner of four victories during his six year career on the tour, finished the season a disappointing ninth in the drivers championship with 19 points and just one top five performance in four finishes. His switch to a MOLGAARD hull late in the year seemed to help his confidence.
Meanwhile, for the Peters & May sponsored Torrente, after his brilliant fourth place finish in Doha, battled for the lead of the race at the next Grand Prix in Portugal only to crash out on the restart after qualifying sixth. Now, forced to drive a new boat in Kazan for the first time, Shaun qualified a fine second place only to crash while pushing for a podium finish for the second straight event. His luck didn't change at the next event as he had a technical problem forcing him to drop out in Kiev on the opening lap.
The Miami driver missed China, only to rejoin the series with the Qatar Team in December. Shipping his own GRAN PRIX short boat from California to the series, Shaun's bad luck continued, crashing out on the opening lap in Abu Dhabi. The 33 year-old finished the season strongly in Sharjah taking a fine fifth place. His performance earned him Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the process capturing 10th in the championship with 16 points.
Also joining Team Sweden was the talented driver from "down under" Rhys Coles. The likeable Aussie who has a couple Australian titles to his resume, joined the team in China and played out the year. In his three races his seventh at the final round in Sharjah was his best. Overall, Rhys did rather well with two top 10's in his three finishes for the driver from Sydney.
Also on board was Swedish F2 veteran and part time ace mechanic Tommy Wahlsten, who, in his only appearance of the season, took a well earned ninth place in Liuzhou after starting 14th for the driver from Nora.
F1 Team Atlantic was four points behind Team Sweden in the team championship with 21 points. Led by their long time Portuguese veteran driver Duarte Benavente, who in his 15th year of racing, was tied for 10th in the drivers table with 16 points.
Duarte, who has 105 starts in his career, had five race finishes in the top-10. His best result, being at the final Grand Prix in Sharjah, where he finished sixth in his DRAGON boat built in Wales. He only failed to finish one event all year so he'll try to keep the consistency alive once again as he goes after his first Grand Prix win in 2012.
Philippe Tourre of France was Duarte's teammate for another year. The likeable driver from Paris, who enjoys a summer house off an island on the West Coast of France, struggled with just three finishes in his six starts. His best day was an eighth in Portugal followed by a ninth in Russia for five points overall and tied for 15th in the drivers championship.
The American Team Nautica organization enjoyed a three boat group of racers led by Norwegian women Marit Stromoy. The Oslo driver, had a breakthrough season, with a tremendous pole position at the Grand Prix of Portugal in May and later in the year with a second place starting spot in Abu Dhabi.
The multi-talented driver lost out on her first ever Grand Prix win when she and Shaun Torrente got together on a re-start in Portugal eliminating both drivers. This was followed by a season best sixth place in Kazan for her last finishing result of the season. Marit closed out 2011 with nine points tied for 13th but with a lot of confidence for the upcoming season as well.
Swiss driver Rinaldo "Rini" Osculati raced in six of seven events. He earned a championship point with a 10th place finish in Kazan. Rini's luck ran out failing to finish his last two starts for the native of Monza, Italy.
Joining Rini was another rookie in Polish driver Bartek Marszalek. His promising first season in F1 was abruptly ended in Abu Dhabi when he and Shaun Torrente got together at the first corner and never finished the first lap. Bartek's best day came in Kiev when he qualified 15th and climbed up to 10th earning his first point in F1 tied for 20th in the standings.
Russian pilot Stanislav Kourtsenovsky raced twice in Kazan and Kiev for his Jetech Tool F1 Racing Team. The veteran from St. Petersburg earning a fine seventh place after charging all the way from 16th on the grid at his home Grand Prix. This talented driver is hoping to fill his calendar for the upcoming campaign and run a full season.
In total, 2011 saw 24 drivers from 13 different countries travel throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East on their 10 month journey for a World Title. In the end, a young, new generation Italian in only 15 starts joined the elite list of person's who can be called World Champion. Alex Carella give the Qatar Team their second title in four years and moves them in a tie with Team Abu Dhabi and the Mad Croc Teams for most drivers titles of current F1 organizations.
Is 2012 going to be the year that Team's Abu Dhabi or Mad Croc shoot for revenge? Or will the Qatar Team
make it a rare back to back success for one Alex Carella? Time is short, there is only 10 weeks before the start of the new campaign on the ninth and tenth of March at the Grand Prix of Qatar in Doha.
Stay tuned, new drivers to new teams and new boats. It's already shaping up to something special for 2012!
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