Saturday, December 9: Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson snatched pole position for the Road to Sharjah-Grand Prix of Sharjah, the final round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship, on Saturday morning.
The new World Champion topped the times after three pulsating BRM Qualifying sessions on Khalid Lagoon and held off a ferocious challenge from Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente in Q3 to snatch pole. Andersson had come into the morning’s session heading Torrente by 18 points in the UIM F1H2O Pole Position Trophy and the Swede duly clinched the title to add to the second World Championship he had already secured in Sardinia back in late September.
Behind the leading duo, Andersson’s team-mate Kalle Viippo qualified in a career-best third place with the Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen set to start Sunday’s Grand Prix from fourth spot.
Andersson said: “I had a perfect set-up and we have been lucky because I also found problems with the old boat. The guys managed to fix it and it was working perfect. I broke my best prop in Q2. This was the back-up and it was not so bad. I am really happy and proud for Kalle, who was qualifying in third. There have been a lot of problems with the engines on the boats and I try hard to give him some good material. We are one and three for the race. Hopefully we don’t break anything in the Sprint races today. Anything can happen. Hopefully we can go for the Teams’ Championship tomorrow…”
Second-placed Torrente added: “It sucked not being in a boat (after his yellow card). It was nice to stay home with the family and spend some quality time. A lot of stupid mistakes on my side. It was not one of my years. Sharjah is about a reset and developing some things for the future. “
A delighted Viippo said: “I am very happy with this result. Now everything is working and Jonas has been working really hard with the engines. It is nearly perfect. Of course, you can always do better. But it is good for now, for this year!”
Zandbergen qualified in fourth. He said: “We are trying to secure second place in the championship and we are fighting for the Fast Lap Trophy and the Teams’ Championship, so there is a lot to focus on this weekend.”
Mad Croc Gillman Racing’s Grant Trask qualified in an excellent fifth place. The Australian said: “To be honest, it has been an awesome season. I have done three races. One I didn’t finish, but I got seventh at each of the venues. Now I will try and get top five this weekend.”
Ahmad Al-Fahim of the Victory Team reached Q3 with some excellent speed but only ran for two laps and qualified in sixth place.
Nine boats were eliminated from the opening 20-minute session that also went a long way to determining the starting positions at the rear of the pontoon for the Grand Prix and the afternoon’s two Sprint races. Peter Morin carded the early target of 48.444 seconds and that stood for five minutes until Torrente clocked a lap of 48.346 seconds to top the standings. The China CTIC Team’s Brent Dillard was forced to missed the session after bad weather-related logistical delays in the delivery of his new engine from the USA.
Torrente and Morin stayed out in front after eight minutes of the session, although Zandbergen, Andersson, Al-Fahim and Thani Al-Qamzi were well-placed to make Q2 when the session was yellow-flagged with 11 minutes to go after a buoy was dislodged at turn three on the far side of the circuit. Additional time was added to the session as a result of the stoppage and the green flag was raised with just over 11 minutes still to run.
Andersson snatched the top spot in the closing minutes with a fastest lap of 48.202 seconds to beat Torrente, Morin and Zandbergen but Cédric Deguisne, Alexandre Bourgeot, Ben Jelf, Duarte Benavente, Marit Strømøy, Filip Roms, Rashed Al-Qemzi and a disgruntled two-time World Champion Sami Seliö were eliminated.
A further six boats were eliminated in the second 15-minute session. Andersson benefited from clearer water and carded the target of 48.975 seconds but that was quickly beaten by Al-Qamzi, Viippo and Stark. Zandbergen then ran quickest with a run of 47.917 seconds, only for Andersson to regain the top spot with a 47.879sec run.
The session was yellow-flagged with a little under eight minutes on the clock after a turn buoy was again dislodged and additional time was added before the restart. Stark hit the front with a run of 47.655sec and storming laps by both Al-Fahim and Torrente catapulted the duo into the top six with seven minutes on the clock. Bartek Marszalek also moved into contention and pushed Al-Qamzi, Andersson and Zandbergen on to the bubble with a risk of not qualifying.
Heading into a nail-biting final five minutes, Andersson delivered a lap of 47.543sec to move into second behind Al-Fahim and that pushed Al-Qamzi into seventh. But the order was changing fast at the sharp end of the standings and Andersson regained the top spot from a flying Trask, Al-Fahim, Torrente, Viippo and Stark. A dramatic last push by Zandbergen enabled the Dutchman to move into the top six at the expense of Stark, who was eliminated alongside Marszalek, Al-Qamzi, Morin, Alberto Comparato and Brock Cohen,
Comparato qualified in 11th after missing much of the Q2 session. The Italian said: “Last year I have a podium in Sharjah and that gave us a boost at the start of the year. We didn’t have a lot of luck this year but we have a good set-up and we can fight for the podium again tomorrow.”
Trask, Viippo, Torrente, Zandbergen, Al-Fahim and Andersson lined up for the six-boat shoot-out for pole position. Andersson was on form early on and laid down the gauntlet with a 46.250sec flier – the fastest lap of the weekend so far. Team-mate Viippo displaced Trask to snatch second but Torrente delivered an upper cut with five minutes of the session remaining and stormed into provisional pole with a run of 46.033sec.
The Florida driver then increased his advantage with a lap of 45.834sec but Andersson hit back strongly and had Torrente on the ropes with a tour of 45.727sec to grab top spot again. The Swede held on to snatch pole position and clinch the UIM Pole Position Trophy in style, with Torrente and Viippo rounding off the top three places.
Two 15-minute Sprint races (A and B) will follow this afternoon from 15.00hrs with the line-up and starting orders determined by the morning’s qualifying sessions.