Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi returns to the scene of his maiden UIM F2 World Championship race victory when he begins the defence of his world title at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Lithuania on Kaunas Reservoir.
The Emirati running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) made history last summer by claiming pole position and going on to win an action-packed opening race in the prestigious racing series. He then followed that triumph with third position in Tønsberg in Norway and fourth at the final round in Ribadouro in Portugal to duly clinch the title by six points from Sweden’s Pierre Lundin.
It was a fantastic feeling to win the F2 World Championship last season.
But I know it will not be easy to retain the championship.
The field of drivers is very strong this season and there is extra importance on a good qualifying result for each race.
Two of the venues will be new to me and the large number of drivers means that getting a clean lap for qualifying is even more significant.
Rashed Al-Tayer is one of the most experienced of all the Emirati racers and switches from the UIM World Endurance series and his exploits in the UIM XCAT World Series to race the second Team Abu Dhabi boat this weekend.
Al-Qemzi and Al-Tayer face one of the largest fields to take part in any UIM racing discipline.
There is a lot of experience right down a potential entry that includes the Swedish trio of Ola Pettersson, Johan Österberg and Oskar Samuelsson, talented young Spaniard Héctor Sanz Lopez, local hero Edgaras Riabko, Russian Konstantin Ustinov, Italy’s Alberto Comparato and Frenchman Nelson Morin.
Other drivers hoping to feature include Britain’s Owen Jelf, Austrian Ferdinand Zandbergen, the Norwegian duo of Tobias Munthe-Kaas and Frode Sundsdal and Germany’s Nick Bisterfeld and Stefan Hagin.
Sundsdal (below) dominated the recent ADAC Ordinary F2 event in Brodenbach, the first outing of the UIM season for many of the F2 drivers.
The championship will also boast a competitor from Australia, Gavin Bricker who has just arrived in Lithuania.
This year’s revised five-race F2 calendar features new additions at Aalborg in Denmark in mid-June and an exciting visit to Sri Lanka at the end of November for the season’s finale, but there is no spot for last year’s ill-fated race in Antwerp or the wind-affected Grand Prix in Campione d’Italia.
The weekend’s action in Kaunas also features FR-1000 European Championship racing laid on by F2 Lithuania in association with the Lithuanian Powerboat Federation (LMF).
Racing on the two-kilometre, six-pin F2 course gets underway at 10.15hrs on Saturday, May 26th with three hours and two sessions of free practice after technical scrutineering and administration checks the previous day.
Three qualifying sessions for two groups of drivers will then start at 14.30hrs and the day’s action concludes with the Speed Run and traditional Match Races, starting at 17.00hrs.
Further free practice for Group A teams starts at 10.00hrs on Sunday. May 27th and precedes Group B warm-up at 10.45hrs and the Repecharge race for the slowest qualifiers at 13.00hrs. The Grand Prix of Lithuania gets the green flag at 15.30hrs.
2018 UIM F2 World Championship calendar:
Grand Prix of Lithuania Kaunas May 26-27
Grand Prix of Denmark Aalborg June 15-17
Grand Prix of Norway Tønsberg August 3-5
Grand Prix of Portugal Ribadouro September 15-16
Grand Prix of Sri Lanka Colombo November 30-December 1