Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi, Rashed Al-Tayer and Shaun Torrente runners-up in Class S2. Team Nollet by New Star 20 claims victory by 20 laps; Touax Pegase Racing Team in third
ROUEN (FRANCE): Tuesday, May 1: Team Abu Dhabi 6 overcame several niggling technical issues, a costly eight-lap penalty for turn buoy violations and a late scare over fuel levels to finish second overall in the prestigious 24 Hours of Rouen endurance race on the River Seine in Northern France on Tuesday.
With the weather improving somewhat for the second session of a race that started seven hours late on Monday because of appalling conditions, Thani and Rashed Al-Qemzi, Rashed Al-Tayer and American Shaun Torrente completed a topsy-turvy endurance race, where they held second for a couple of hours at the start and then fought back from seventh place to eventually finish behind the winning Team Nollet by New Star 20 DAC, crewed by the all-Russian team of Roman and Dmitry Vandyshev and Andrey Paniushkin. Fuel level issues for Team Abu Dhabi and a late scare for the eventual winners ensured a thrilling conclusion to the shortened 17-hour race.
Team Abu Dhabi’s challenge suffered lap penalties during the first session for turn buoy violations and debris wrapped around the propeller in fading light and then two prop shaft failures and a broken compressor in the last few hours of the second session on the 3.8km course. But the team working out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) fought back resolutely and reached the chequered flag 20 laps behind the winners, despite running dangerously low on fuel in the final minutes of the race. The Touax Pegase Racing Team (8) rounded off the podium positions in a Moore hull and Team Marine Inshore – Loutz (28) were fourth.
Team Nollet by New Star 1, crewed by three-time UIM F1 H2O World Champion Philippe Chiappe, Peter and Nelson Morin and Russian driver Konstantin Ustinov, led until the end of the first session, despite flipping the boat in the dark near the end of the stint. It took much longer than anticipated to make repairs the following morning before they could restart and the crew reached the finish in fifth position.
“Everyone worked hard in a very difficult race in demanding conditions,” said Salem Al-Remeithi, general manager of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC. “We obviously wanted to finish first, but this is a race of endurance and we overcame several obstacles to finish second.”
Torrente said: “Second place confirmed, maybe with one litre of fuel left in the boat at the finish! Rashed Al-Tayer did a great job in the final stint in managing the fuel and just going fast enough to stay in front of the number eight boat. We only had one penalty all race. We are really happy with the race. Now we will go to Poland and try and win the World Championship in July.”
Racing eventually got underway at 5pm on Monday, seven hours later than planned because of the inclement weather conditions. Chiappe checked out the course before the green light was given and the early minutes developed into a two-way tussle between Chiappe’s Nollet-New Star entry and Team Abu Dhabi.After 40 minutes, both crews had completed 21 laps and the French boat was running 2.962 seconds in front of the entry from the ADIMSC. Tullio Abbate’s Principato di Seborga (5) and Team Privilege (25) were on the same lap and 4.799 seconds and 7.33 seconds adrift of the leader, respectively. Team Nollet by New Star 20 lost time with air bag issues, while Navikart Racing (32) also lost laps with technical issues. The gap between the top two boats was up to 12.4 seconds at the end of the first hour and boats five and 25 were still running on the same lap.
Only Team Nollet by New Star 1 and Team Abu Dhabi were on the same lap at the two-hour mark and the gap was just 5.24 seconds after 68 laps of the course, but Thani Al-Qemzi was penalised for hitting a turn buoy in the third hour and Team Abu Dhabi slipped down to sixth position, with Xtrem Racing (26) now up to second and running five laps behind the long-term leaders. The Touax Pegase Racing Team (8) was up to third place.
There were further woes for Team Abu Dhabi in the fourth hour of the race when the DAC collected some debris around the propeller and had to be towed back to the pits. Team Nollet by New Star 1 duly completed 142 laps and was running 12 tours in front of Xtrem Racing and 17 in front of boat eight. Team Abu Dhabi was down in seventh.
Torrente said: “We picked up some cloth or some upholstery from a couch and it stopped the engine. It wrapped around the prop at the farthest possible place from the pits and we had to get towed in and lost 25 laps. Thani hit or missed two buoys and that was another eight laps of penalties. Rashed (Al-Qemzi) and Rashed (Al-Tayer) were recovering slowly and I took over for the last one and a half hours of the session.”
Team Abu Dhabi began to close in on their rivals in the dark and a sterling fight back by the team enabled the DAC to finish session one in third position, 32 laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 1 and nine behind Team Nollet by New Star 20. Team Marine inshore 28 were fourth and Xtrem Racing rounded off the top five. But drama had also affected the leading duo.
Torrente added: “I guess we were in a pretty good spot at the end of the night session. There were a lot of logs in the river and I hit one about seven or eight laps into the stint. I did a little damage and kept going but it was an ill-handling boat. The 20 boat hit the same log I hit and went in to change the gear case. He couldn’t do that so he was waiting until the morning to change it. The 1 boat, with 13 minutes to go, blew over. They had a lot of work to do in the morning.”
While Team Nollet worked on their damaged boats before the restart, Team Abu Dhabi changed the gear casing and began a challenge for the outright lead. By the end of the 10th hour, Team Abu Dhabi was up to second position and running a mere nine laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 20 after repairs to the leading Team Nollet 1 boat had taken a lot longer than anticipated. It had not ventured out on to the water at the end of the first hour and was down in fifth place. The leading 20 boat had completed 68 laps since the resumption and Team Abu Dhabi was three laps behind.
The Abu Dhabi crew broke down soon afterwards with a prop shaft issue and had to be towed back to the pits and this opened the door for Team Marine Inshore (28) and Touax Pegase Racing Team (8) to snatch second and third places. The 1 boat was also back on the water in fifth place, but Team Abu Dhabi was now 35 laps behind the leaders.
Team Abu Dhabi continued to press on and the team regained second position behind Team Nollet by New Star 20, although they remained 34 laps behind the leaders at 11.30hrs. With three hours to go, the gap was down to 33 laps with Touax Pegase a further 16 adrift and the Team Nollet 1 boat 52 laps adrift in fifth.
The gap remained constant until further technical woes befell the Team Abu Dhabi DAC. As Torrente explained: “We were pushing for the win in the morning and then we broke two prop shafts within one hour. We had to change those and fell back to fourth and climbed back to second. I had about 10 minutes to go in my last session and then the compressor failed. I was able to drive it back. We changed the compressor and the boat got going again.
“We were still in second place, seven laps up on third. Luckily we had a decent margin, but we could not afford any problems to the finish. Because of the breakdown, Rashed Al-Tayer was supposed to be out in the boat and then Rashed Al-Qemzi, after me, to race one hour each, but we could not afford to stop for the driver change and thought we could make it to the end on fuel. It was a case of monitoring it carefully to the finish.”
Last year the team completed 678 laps. But there was to be late drama on this occasion. As Touax Pegase closed to be running on the same lap as Team Abu Dhabi, the race leading Team Nollet by New Star 20 ground to a halt on the river with a steering issue after an incident involving Navicart Racing (32) and was towed back to the pits with the clock ticking and less than one hour to go. A 41-lap lead was soon whittled down to 35 but Touax Pegase managed to gain two laps on Team Abu Dhabi under the yellow flag and Rashed needed to push hard over the closing laps. The outcome of the race was going down to the wire…
With 39 minutes to run, Team Nollet by New Star 20’s lead had dropped to 27 laps, as Al-Tayer managed to sneak through into a narrow lead over Touax Pegase. But the leading boat was back in the water within a few minutes and rejoined the race with a 24-lap lead and 32 minutes remaining. Team Abu Dhabi had only 30 litres of fuel left for the remaining 25 minutes of the race and nails were biting in the team camp, despite the telemetry suggesting that it would be enough to see out the race. “It was going to be mighty close because you have to cross the finish line by your own power or you get nothing,” said Torrente.
There were no late dramas and Team Abu Dhabi eventually reached the chequered flag 20 laps behind Team Nollet by New Star 20 to bring another thrilling Rouen 24 Hour race to a close on the River Seine. But Xtrem Racing 26 crashed while in ninth place in the final minutes.
24 HOURS OF ROUEN RESULTS
1. Team Nollet by New Star 20 – 557 laps
2. Team Abu Dhabi 6 – 537 laps
3. Touax Pegase Racing Team 8 – 537 laps
4. Team Marine Inshore – Loutz 28 – 524 laps
5. Team Nollet by New Star – 477 laps
6. Tullio Abbate – Principato di Seborga 5 – 443 laps
7. Sun Racing Team 4 – 415 laps
8. Navikart Racing 32 – 390 laps, etc
Written by: Audrey