Andersson Wins In Sharjah To Set Up Three-Way F1H2O Title Showdown On Sunday

Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson—the reigning world champion—claimed an impressive start-to-finish victory on Friday in the Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Sharjah, the fifth and penultimate round of the Union Internationale Motonautique F1H2O World Championship on Khalid Lagoon in Sharjah, UAE.

With his victory at the F1H2O Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Sharjah on Friday, Jonas Andersson of Team Sweden put himself in position to defend his 2021 world championship. Photos courtesy Arek Reis/F1H2O

The performance lifted the Swede to within three points of Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente at the top of the drivers’ points championship standings and ensures that the duo—and Torrente’s teammate, Thani Al-Qemzi—will face off in a three-way showdown for the world title on Sunday afternoon in Road to Sharjah Grand Prix of Middle East.

“I am very happy for this win—it brings me closer to Shaun in the championship,” Andersson said. “Sharjah is my happy place because I had my first podium here in 2006 and we’ve won here two times before. I really love this course.”

Torrente, who qualified second on Thursday, shadowed Andersson for much of the race but late electrical issues dealt the Florida native a cruel blow as he lost power, and four places, during the closing laps. Torrente initially slipped down to fourth behind China CTIC Team’s Philippe Chiappe of France and the Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio, before losing two further places to Gillman Racing’s Alec Weckström and Italy’s Alberto Comparato on the last two laps.

“I love my boat, I love my team, and I love that this is never easy,” Torrente posted on his Facebook page. “Congrats to Jonas on his win. Today is done and we focus for Sunday. (It’s going to) be a show—get your popcorn ready!”

With Torrente only finishing sixth and Al-Qemzi gaining just four points for seventh place, 10 points separate the top three heading into what promises to be a captivating battle for the title on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., UAE time). Chiappe was later pushed down to eighth place after being penalized for not maintaining his lane at the start. Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team’s Bartek Marszalek climbed to third place in the final results. Andersson’s teammate, Kalle Viippo, was ninth and Marit Strømøy rounded off the top 10.

Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente finished sixth on Friday, but still holds a three-point lead—69 to 66—heading into Sunday’s finale.

Torrente will need no reminding that in 2019 in Sharjah, he snatched the world title from Andersson’s grasp, squeezing into second place behind the Swede on the last lap to beat him on a championship countback. With a fifth successive world team title already secured, the two Team Abu Dhabi teammates are expected to go all out to grab pole position on Sunday, looking for a crucial advantage to take into the final round of the championship three hours later.

During Friday’s race, Andersson held his line from Torrente and Chiappe at lights out as the leaders barreled toward the first turn buoy at the start of the 38-lap sprint race. The Swede began to edge away from Torrente and was almost 4 seconds ahead after the opening lap. Chiappe, Weckström and Selio held third, fourth and fifth and Comparato stormed through from the middle of the field to hold sixth. Al-Qemzi slipped back to 10th place. Italian Paolo Longhi did not start.

The leaders held station through the first 12 laps with Andersson holding a 4.37-second lead over Torrente with Chiappe, Selio and Weckström running strongly. And, at the halfway point, Andersson’s lead was 3.65 seconds with Al-Qemzi still unable to move up the leader board from his ninth place until Marszalek dropped back to 10th and lifted the Emirati to eighth.

With nine laps to go, Andersson led Torrente by 4.08 seconds and the remainder of the top eight held station until Al-Qemzi climbed another place to seventh at the expense of Zandbergen, who hit technical trouble and dropped out of the race. Torrente was overtaken by Chiappe heading into the last few laps and the American was then overhauled by Selio as well and dropped to fourth, his issues throwing the title race wide open.

The Swede held on to the checkered flag to earn 20 vital championship points, while Torrente ceded two more places and finished in sixth behind the leading duo, Selio, Weckström and Comparato.

After the Grand Prix this afternoon, His Excellency Khalid Al-Midfa, the chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority officially handed the F1H2O flag to His Excellency Zainudin Amali, Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs for the Republic of Indonesia, the new host country for the opening round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship.

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