China CTIC Team’s Philippe Chiappe earns dramatic 10th career victory on his last ever F1H2O race
SHARJAH (UAE): Sunday, December 18: China CTIC driver Philippe Chiappe claimed victory on his very last race in a pulsating Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of the Middle East on ‘Showdown Sunday’ on Khaled Lagoon.
But, despite destroying his DAC in a spectacular collision with team-mate and title rival Thani Al-Qemzi, Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente claimed a third world title to add to his wins in 2018 and 2019, after Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson was forced out of the race lead with technical issues 10 tours from the finish of the 38-lap race.
Chiappe gained the lead when Andersson withdrew and reached the chequered flag 2.73 seconds clear of Poland’s Bartek Marszalek, with young Italian Alberto Comparato confirming the last place on the podium. After announcing his retirement from top flight competition before the race weekend, the success marked Chiappe’s 10th career GP win and his first since Abu Dhabi in 2017 in a career spanning 23 years at the top of the sport.
Chiappe said: “This was a special day and a special emotion with me with the last race and the victory. It’s a dream. This is a high level on my story. It is a fantastic feeling to finish the season with this victory. I started in Sharjah 23 years ago, my first race, and my last race was in Sharjah and I win the race. It is a perfect day and I am very happy for the team. It is the end of the story for my career but it’s a good day!”
Only eight of the 18 drivers finished the thrilling race: Gillman Racing’s Alec Weckström clinched the prestigious ‘Rookie of the Year’ award after finishing fourth, Finland’s Kalle Viippo was fifth, Maverick Racing’s Cédric Deguisne and Alexandre Bourgeot were classified in sixth and eighth and rookie Ben Jelf of the F1 Atlantic Team claimed his first ever World Championship points for finishing an excellent seventh.
Disaster struck the two Team Abu Dhabi drivers on the 10th lap when Torrente had a spectacular near coming together with Marszalek and was hit hard from behind by Thani Al-Qemzi, the incident ending the latter’s title dream and meant that Torrente’s hopes were dependent on whether Andersson finished the race lower than seventh place. Torrente had already clinched a first UIM F12H2O Pole Position Trophy in the morning and Andersson’s cruel demise gifted the American the world title minutes later.
An emotional new World Champion Torrente said: “The reason I am very emotional is that we had a crash today. Bartek didn’t do it on purpose. It was a mistake. I crashed and Thani got caught in the crash. Honestly, I was five feet from being in the hospital. Five feet away from not standing here talking to you, not World Champion, nothing. And now it’s okay and I am the World Champion!”
Only 16 of the 18 boats lined up at the start pontoon after two-time World Champion Sami Selio confirmed that his boat had been damaged in the qualifying session and the Finn would not be able to take the start of the race from fourth position. His withdrawal lifted Al-Qemzi to sixth on the grid.
“Boat broken, so no chance to race,” admitted the dejected Selio. “We never give up but now we can do nothing. Cheering for Ferdinand now. The positive thing is that both team boats were in the top six in qualifying.”
Both Alec Weckström and Marit Strømøy were complaining about a lack of power during the morning’s racing and Strømøy also opted not to start the race.
Chiappe lined up ahead of Andersson, Torrente, Marszalek, Zandbergen and Al-Qemzi for the title decider. Andersson made a superb start and managed to pass Chiappe and snatch the lead into the first turn buoy. The Swede began to extend his lead through the opening turns, as Chiappe, Marszalek and Torrente held the minor places on the leader board and Al-Qemzi retained sixth behind Ferdinand Zandbergen. Paolo Longhi did not start.
By the end of lap three, Andersson’s lead was 4.92 seconds and Torrente was 10.03 seconds off the pace-setter. Filip Roms pulled out of the running after a single lap with engine issues, leaving 14 boats in the 38-lap race. But the race was yellow-flagged as a result on lap six while the Gillman Racing boat was removed from the course.
Andersson’s hard-earned advantage was duly undone and the Swede had to start to build a lead again when the action resumed with a green flag on lap nine. As Andersson stormed away from the restart, there was a spectacular coming together on the far side of the course. Torrente had a coming together with Marszalek and Al-Qemzi immediately collided with the wreckage of his team-mate’s-stricken DAC. The race was immediately yellow-flagged again, with Al-Qemzi’s world title hopes in ruins and Torrente’s slim chance depending upon Andersson not finishing higher than seventh.
Racing resumed on lap 13 and Andersson maintained his advantage from Chiappe, Marszalek, Zandbergen, Comparato and Weckström. The Team Sweden driver led by 3.71 seconds through 17 laps but the race was yellow-flagged again when Zandbergen barrel-rolled his Sharjah Team boat and ended the host team’s dream of winning the final race of the season. His demise gifted the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title to Weckström.
The green flag was raised again on lap 21. Once again, Andersson made a good start and began to pull clear of Chiappe, Marszalek and young Comparato. The leading margin was 3.12 seconds after lap 23 and had climbed to 5.09 seconds with 11 laps of the race remaining. Morin was side lined on the same lap and the Frenchman’s demise lifted Deguisne and Jelf into eighth and ninth positions.
But there was drama on the far side of the race course when Andersson hit mechanical trouble and plummeted down the leader board, his cruel problems handing the race lead to Chiappe from Marszalek and Comparato. Agonizingly, the Swede was not able to continue and withdrew after 28 laps, while the F1 Atlantic Team’s Duarte Benavente was forced out with technical issues on lap 35.
Chiappe had announced his retirement before the race weekend and it was a fateful moment when the Frenchman crossed the finish to secure a second victory in Sharjah, his first coming in 2014. Marszalek finished second and Comparato was third. But Torrente’s emotional roller-coaster ended with a broad smile, a badly-damaged boat and a third world title in five years.
2022 Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of the Middle East – result:
1. Phillipe Chiappe (FRA) China CTIC Team 38 laps
2. Bartek Marszalek (POL) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team @ 2.73 seconds
3. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comparato F1 @ 17.48 seconds
4. Alec Weckström (FIN) Gillman Racing @ 23.57 seconds
5. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden @ 28.90 seconds
6. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick Racing @ 50.17 seconds
7. Ben Jelf (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 2 laps behind
8. Alexandre Bourgeot (FRA) Maverick Racing 2 laps behind
Duarte Benavente (POR) F1 Atlantic Team DNF
Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden DNF
Peter Morin (FRA) China CTIC Team DNF
Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Sharjah Team DNF
Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi DNF
Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi DNF
Filip Roms (FIN) Gillman Racing DNF
Paulo Longhi (ITA) Comparato F1 DNS
Marit Strømøy (NOR) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team DNS
Sami Selio (FIN) Sharjah Team DNS
2022 UIM F1H2O World Championship – final standings:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 69pts
2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 66pts
3. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 59pts
4. Alec Weckström (FIN) Gillman Racing 48pts
5. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Sharjah Team 34pts
6. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) China CTIC Team 33pts
7. Bartek Marszalek (POL) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 33pts
8. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comparato F1 26pts
9. Peter Morin (FRA) China CTIC Team 21pts
10. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden 19pts
11. Cédric Deguisne (FRA) Maverick Racing 16pts
12. Sami Selio (FIN) Sharjah Team 15pts
13. Marit Strømøy (NOR) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 10pts
14. Alexandre Bourgeot (FRA) Maverick Racing 9pts
15. Ben Jelf (GBR) F1 Atlantic Team 4pts
16. Duarte Benavente (POR) F1 Atlantic Team 0pts
2022 UIM F1H2O Pole Position Trophy – final standings:
1. Shaun Torrente (USA) Team Abu Dhabi 74pts
2. Jonas Andersson (SWE) Team Sweden 62pts
3. Sami Selio (FIN) Sharjah Team 56pts
4. Philippe Chiappe (FRA) China CTIC Team 56pts
5. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 54pts
6. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comparato F1 36pts
7. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NLD) Sharjah Team 30pts
8. Bartek Marszalek (POL) Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team 12pts
9. Alec Weckström (FIN) Gillman Racing 12pts
10. Peter Morin (FRA) China CTIC Team 9pts
11. Kalle Viippo (FIN) Team Sweden 7pts