Saturday, April 29: Team Sweden’s former World Champion Jonas Andersson claimed pole position for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Zhengzhou, China in a pulsating BRM Qualifying session held in difficult water conditions on the Yellow River on Saturday afternoon.
The prime spot on the podium looked to have gone to defending World Champion Shaun Torrente in the dying seconds of a thrilling 10-minute Q3 session. The American stormed through to set a quicker lap than the Swede’s pole-winning 45.78sec tour but was deemed to have encroached on rival Sami Seliö’s racing line. Race officials actually docked both drivers their quickest laps after a session that had been interrupted late on when fifth-placed Italian racer Alberto Comparato ground to a halt on the course.
Andersson was duly handed pole position and Frenchman Peter Morin of the China CTIC Team qualified in second place, ahead of Seliö and Torrente, who slipped back to fourth.
A delighted Andersson said: “I have a good feeling. It’s always nice to be back in China. It was always going to be very fast and demanding. Sometimes it was bad and sometimes it was very bad. I was just pushing when I needed. Today it was enough!”
Torrente added: “The last race was a blast and I came out second. Conditions dictated qualifying today. We have a good package for the race, so let’s see…”
Championship leader Bartek Marszalek failed to make the final qualifying session and will unofficially start the race from 10th place.
Twenty drivers from 10 teams lined up at the start of Q1, the first of three traditional qualifying sessions for Sunday’s race. Eight boats would be eliminated during the opening 20-minute session in arduous water conditions. Morin topped the times after five minutes of the stint with a 47.38sec lap but the pressure was building at the rear of the field with drivers jostling to ensure they were not eliminated in Q1.
The Frenchman’s time was still topping the list as the session headed into the final 10 minutes, with the Victory Team’s Ahmad Al-Fahim the only driver not to make the session.
The Emirati was eliminated alongside England’s Ben Jelf, the Maverick Racing duo of Cédric Deguisne and Alexandre Bourgeot, Brock Cohen, Kalle Viippo, Duarte Benavente and Marit Strømøy. Comparato managed to sneak into Q2 in 12th. Morin’s fastest time stood throughout the session in tough conditions, with Zandbergen and Andersson finishing second and third.
A further six were eliminated in the 15-minute Q2 stint. Andersson set the early target of 47.75sec, as 10 of the 12 boats headed out at the start of the session. Both Team Abu Dhabi boats were the last on to the water, as Seliö stormed to the top of the rankings with a 46.46sec run and Torrente moved into second at the expense of Andersson.
The session was stopped with a little over three minutes to go when Trask spectacularly flipped his Mad Croc Gillman Racing boat down the straight while lying fifth in the session. An additional three and a half minutes were then added to the stint to enable drivers to qualify after the stoppage. But weather conditions had deteriorated still further.
Trask said: “I thought I could possibly get into the top three but as I went to trim it in, it was too late and I lifted off and couldn’t save it unfortunately. I’m okay and the boat seems to be okay. If the engine’s okay we can start in the top six tomorrow. The water was very cold….unfortunately, I’ve given the boys some work to do tonight!”
Seliö went on to win the session with that lap of 46.46sec but Ferdinand Zandbergen, Erik Stark, Brent Dillard, championship leader Bartek Marszalek, Filip Roms and rookie Rashed Al-Qamzi failed to reach Q3.
It was disappointing for Stark, who, before the session started had said: “The boat is working well and the team is doing a great job, Picking the right propeller is the difficult job. The qualifying is always important because you need to be up there to be able to have a chance.”
Marszalek added: “The conditions are very challenging for all the drivers. The wind direction changed completely and changed the water conditions almost immediately.”
With Trask’s boat damaged after his accident, only five boats lined up for the 10-minute Q3 shoot-out. Andersson carded the early target time of 46.85sec and improved that to a flying 46.53sec, as Morin and Torrente moved into second and third. Seliö then delivered a stunning 46.50sec run to snatch provisional pole, only for Andersson to run even quicker with a devastating lap of 46.29sec.
Seliö was not to be denied and the flying Finn leapt into pole position with a time of 46.17sec just before the yellow flag was raised when Comparato stopped on the course while holding fifth place. Racing resumed with around one minute to run and Torrente benefitted from clear water to snatch pole position with a dramatic run of 45.63sec.
But Torrente was investigated for encroaching on Seliö’s line in the final minutes and the times were adjusted with Andersson handed pole position and Morin given second place when Torrente’s and Seliö’s fastest times were cancelled.
The 2023 Grand Prix of Zhengzhou, China fires into life at the slightly earlier time of 14.30hrs (local time) on Sunday.