He may have one eye firmly focused on a first UIM F1H2O World Championship title, but Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qemzi is the most successful driver in the history of the Grand Prix of Sharjah and victory in the first of the back-to-back races on Khaled Lagoon would give the Emirati a record-breaking fourth victory in the UAE’s third largest emirate.
Sharjah began hosting F1H2O races in 2000 and the race has been the final round of the series since 2004. Al-Qemzi claimed his three victories in 2006, 2008 and 2012 and would like nothing more than to take a fourth win after a 10-year drought and close the gap on team-mate Shaun Torrente in the title race to take to the second of the Sharjah double-header races.
Several drivers have claimed two wins in Sharjah: Sami Selio is a two-time World Champion and won the race in 2007 and the second of two races held in a new format in 2009, while 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini claimed victories in 2001 and 2005, two of the years in which he also won world titles.
American racer Scott Gillman secured back-to-back wins in 2003 and 2004, the second success enabling Gillman to clinch the third of his four world titles. Ahmed Al-Hameli was one of the most talented local stars to compete in the sport and the Abu Dhabi front-man won the Sharjah races in 2010 and 2011. Alex Carella, meanwhile, reached the top step of the podium in 2013 and again when he secured a fourth world title in 2017.
Seven drivers have won a single Sharjah race: Italy’s Francesco Cantando climbed on to the top step of the podium for the inaugural race in 2000, fellow countryman Massimo Roggiero won in 2002, Jay Price came into the 2009 season as World Champion and won the first of the two 2009 races and Philippe Chiappe earned the laurels in 2014.
Norway’s Marit Strømoy then made her little piece of sporting history by becoming the first woman ever to win a GP race with success on Khalid Lagoon in 2015, Torrente claimed the win in 2016, Erik Stark flourished in 2018 and the defending World Champion Jonas Andersson was triumphant in 2019.
Drivers who have made the podium and not taken a win include Salem Al-Khattal, Laith Pharaon, Phillippe Dessertenne. Fabio Comparato, Ivan Brigada, David Trask, Terry Rinker and Bartek Marszalak.
Perhaps, the most dramatic of all race finishes happened in Sharjah in 2011 when the now defunct Qatar Team’s Price and Carella were battling it out for the world title in a winner-takes-all showdown.
Carella headed into the race fourth on the grid behind pole-sitter Al-Hameli, Price and Chiappe. He had a five-point lead over his American team-mate but the duo collided dramatically at the first turn buoy and took each other out of the race. Al-Hameli went on to reach the chequered flag in front of Al-Qemzi and Chiappe, while Carella was crowned World Champion for the first time, despite not finishing the race.