Wednesday, 11 December, SHARJAH (UAE): The milestone 20th UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah [18-21 December] and the final championship race of the decade, is arguably one of the most eagerly anticipated title showdowns for many a season. And since 2004 when the Emirate of Sharjah took over as the year-ending showcase season finale there have been many.
Following the weather affected season-opener in Saudi Arabia, two outstanding Grand Prix in Portugal and France and the spectacular drama-filled double-headers in China the final act of the 2019 season is about to be played out, the final script about to be written.
Eighteen drivers started the season with title aspirations, the cast now whittled down to two. It is Shaun Torrente and the might of Team Abu Dhabi versus Jonas Andersson and the mighty Team Sweden.
Whatever transpires they will end the year as world number one or two. Torrente looking to successfully defend his title, Andersson looking to win his first and already assured of his best year-end finish.
Torrente heads into the decider with a five point advantage, 64-59. If he finishes ahead of Andersson or is second and Andersson wins he is champion. A win for Andersson with Torrente third gives it to Andersson. If neither wins, Andersson must beat Torrente by a six point margin to win it. The permutations are many!
Both drivers have good records in Sharjah, Torrente winning in 2016 and on the podium four times, Andersson runner-up in the last two years, also bagging two third-placed finishes in 2008 and 2006.
The two title protagonists have fought hard to be the last men standing and have dominated the podium places, Torrente winning twice and taking the third step of the once, Andersson winning once, finishing second once and third twice.
But it has been far from a two man show; Emirates Racing’s Marit Stromoy with three top five finishes and on the podium in China, Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi picking up podiums in Portugal and France and a revitalised Alex Carella winning in China for Maverick F1 Racing.
And it is this supporting cast, littered with Sharjah winners and podium finishers, who could well have a massive impact on the title outcome if they can take places and points away from either or both of the title rivals, as well as having their own agendas, Grand Prix glory and the vacant third step on the prestigious year-end podium.
Marit Stromoy currently heads the chasing pack on 37 points, 10 ahead of Thani Al Qemzi with Alex Carella and Peter Morin a further two and four points in arrears.
Stromoy has had a storming season, is on target for her best year-end position and Sharjah is where she made history, winning in 2015. The Norwegian is always a threat in qualifying and this year has proven once again what a great competitor and a genuine threat to the front runners she is and will be eager to end the year with a well-deserved victory that she is more than capable of getting.
For the second year in a row Al Qemzi’s season has derailed at the 11th hour, but no doubt the Emirati will be aiming to help out his teammate [Torrente] if he can and add to his strong record on Khalid Lagoon, winning three times with a further four podium finishes.
If anyone is going to ignore and tear up the script it could well be four-time champion Carella who put a tortuous 18 months behind him last time out, his win catapulting him from nowhere in the standings into contention for a top three finish and at a venue where he has won twice and finished on the podium three times.
CTIC duo Peter Morin and three-time champion Philippe Chiappe may also have a say; Morin has looked feisty all season although a podium has eluded him and he is the sole remaining driver with a shot at finishing in the year-end top three, whilst Chiappe is very much back form following up a pole in France with a podium in China and another to have tasted victory and podium success on the Lagoon.
The drivers’ first opportunity to get out on the 2.057km Khalid Lagoon circuit is official practice which takes place on Thursday  at 10.15hrs [local] followed by Rebellion Official Qualifying at 15:30hrs, with a second practice session on Saturday morning followed by the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah at 16:00hrs.
UIM F1H2O World Championship standings:
1. Shaun Torrente (usa/*uae) – 64pts
2. Jonas Andersson (swe) – 59pts
3. Marit Stromoy (nor) – 37pts
4. Thani Al Qemzi (uae) – 27pts
5. Alex Carella (ita/*uae) – 25pts
6. Peter Morin (fra) – 23pts
(*international racing licence)
For full classifications: