Saturday, July 1: Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente claimed a dramatic last gasp pole position after a pulsating BRM Qualifying session for the Grand Prix of France on the River Saône in Mâcon on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing Team Sweden’s arch rival Jonas Andersson heading into the dying seconds of the thrilling six-boat showdown, the American took advantage of a yellow flag situation that gave racers an additional minute to set a pole-winning time. With Andersson looking set to claim a second successive pole with a lap of 33.322 seconds, Torrente took advantage of clear water to beat his rival by 0.107 seconds on his final run to snatch a prime starting position for Sunday’s race.
The delighted American said: “I am just happy to get the pole. I am thankful for the team at Abu Dhabi, for Guido (Cappellini) and all the guys that we could test early and we came here really prepared. I was able to put it on pole today. It was a fantastic job by Jonas and all the guys. They all pushed hard. But conditions came good at the end. We start one tomorrow. Hopefully we finish one!”
Andersson said: “It’s been ups and downs, I had quite good speed in Indonesia and then we broke down. But everything was perfect in China and I won the race. Hopefully we can continue in a strong way tomorrow.”
The Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen stopped on the course with less than a minute to run but the Dutchman had already claimed third position. Zandbergen said: “Third is not first but I am super happy with the result.”
Young Italian Alberto Comparato qualified in fourth and the CTIC China Team duo of Peter Morin and Brent Dillard will provisionally line-up in fifth and sixth on the start pontoon on Sunday.
Q1 - Group A
Drivers were split into two groups of 10 for the first of the BRM Qualifying sessions with one driver from each team in each group. The fastest three from each group would then make it through to the final six-boat shoot-out. Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente had won the morning’s free practice session amongst the Group A runners and the American started as favourite to win the opening 20-minute heat.
The CTIC China Team’s Peter Morin had carried out many laps on the Mâcon course during his days in S2000 and the Frenchman posted an early target lap of 36.202 seconds. But that time was surpassed by Sami Seliö’s opening salvo of 36.134 and then Torrente hit the front with a 35.070 flyer. Seliö and Morin were closely matched and the Frenchman moved ahead of the Finn again with 13 minutes of the session remaining. The Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim moved up to fourth at the expense of Filip Roms.
By mid-session, Morin moved to the top of the leader board with a lap of 35.040 seconds and he ran even quicker with a tour of 34.965 seconds before Al-Fahim spectacularly blew his boat over in a 360-degree flip, landed upright and forced a yellow flag situation on the course.
Action resumed with less than a minute on the clock but the session was extended by several minutes to allow racers to put in late qualifying laps. With less than five minutes to run, there were no changes in the rankings and the session was about to finish with Morin qualifying along with Torrente and Seliö. But Alberto Comparato had other ideas and a sensational last gasp lap of 35.167sec enabled the Italian to pass Seliö and eject the Finn from the six-boat shoot-out.
Seliö said: “Due to missing out the majority of the morning’s free practice, I was unable to select the right prop to run. I went for the wrong one and there was no time to change it in qualifying. We thought third place was safe, then Comparato put in a stellar lap and improved by one second.”
Race one winner Bartek Marszalek struggled at the rear of the field and only ran for 14 laps.
Q1 - Group B
The second group of even-numbered racers followed on to the course for their 20-minute session in cool and gloomy conditions with rain beginning to fall. Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi laid down the gauntlet with a flyer of 35.804sec but that was quickly surpassed by Brent Dillard’s run of 35.647sec in his new Moore.
Ferdinand Zandbergen hit the top with a 35.123sec run heading into the last quarter of an hour of the session. But Dillard was not to be denied and the American hit the front again with a first sub-35-second lap. Andersson had won the morning’s free practice session and the Team Sweden racer moved up to second, as Victory Team’s Erik Stark snatched third.
Zandbergen managed to displace Stark to gain third behind Dillard and Andersson heading into the final nine minutes. Andersson then carded a run of 34.522sec to move ahead of Dillard and Stark regained third at the expense of his Dutch rival, as the yellow flag was raised when Duarte Benavente pulled up on the course with five minutes remaining on the clock.
Extra time was added as a result of the course yellow and action resumed with Zandbergen and Al-Qamzi desperate to move into the top three in the remaining five minutes. Zandbergen did manage to find that extra pace and a lap of 34.625sec pushed the Dutchman back into third at the expense of Stark with the clock running down.
But the Swede ground to a halt in the final minute and enabled Zandbergen to follow Andersson and Dillard into the six-boat shoot-out. Zandbergen said: I was completely unaware of the battle I was involved in with Stark, as my radio messages only tell me what position I am in.”
The Group A qualifying trio of Shaun Torrente, Peter Morin and Alberto Comparato were joined by Group B’s Jonas Andersson, Brent Dillard and Ferdinand Zandbergen for the final 15-minute Q2 six-boat shoot-out to determine pole position.
Torrente was out of the blocks like a greyhound and set the target of 34.680sec but the American’s opener was quickly beaten by both Andersson and Morin. The Frenchman then stormed to the top of the leaderboard with a 33.876sec run and held provisional pole into the final 10 minutes. But Andersson was in determined mood and the former World Champion leapt ahead again with a 33.847sec. A mere 0.074 seconds separated the top three but Andersson maintained the lead from Morin and Torrente into the last seven minutes.
Torrente was patient, found some clear water and then stormed into the lead with a lap of 33.703sec with five minutes on the clock. Comparato carded a 33.735sec run and moved into second place and was then overhauled by Zandbergen’s run of 33.629, as Torrente maintained provisional pole with a 33.397. After a propeller change, Andersson was on a mission, however, and the flying Swede catapulted himself into the lead with a 33.322 with less than two minutes remaining.
That run was sufficient for the Swede to snatch the lead from Torrente and Zandbergen, as the yellow flag came out with less than a minute on the clock when the Dutchman pulled up on the course. Morin was also towed off the circuit before race officials permitted the surviving four racers on to the course for a final one-minute shoot-out.
The decision played into Torrente’s hands and the Florida racer clocked a 33.215sec run to snatch a dramatic pole position from Andersson and snatch the lead from his rival in the UIM F1H2O Pole Position Trophy.