Following the successful completion of the 2022 Orlen Necko UIM World Circuit Endurance Championship held in Augustów, Poland, the town now looks forward to hosting the opening round of the 2022 UIM F2 World Championship.
With twenty-two drivers arriving at the spa resort in north-eastern Poland, predicting who will be standing on the podium come Sunday is going to be tough, even for those who have followed every twist and turn of this hotly contested series for the last few years.
Several drivers have collected silverware here in the past at the endurance event including Edgaras Riabko, who successfully raced here from 2016 through to 2019 and Rashed Al Qemzi, who along with his Abu Dhabi teammate Mansoor Al Mansoori collected the world title in 2021.
Both Al Qemzi and Riabko finished in the top three of last year’s UIM F2 World Championship and will be looking to recreate the form that saw them both win Grand Prix. The two could arrive with completely different agendas though.
For Riabko he will want to put the ‘unpleasant’ nature of how he saw last season finishing behind him, but it will for sure be in the back of the Lithuanian’s mind when his helmet visor is lowered. For the relax and laid back Al Qemzi, he will be looking to equal the record set by Erik Stark, who won four world championship titles. They both have DAC hulls at their disposal, but the Emirati will have all the latest modifications perfected by his Team Manager Guido Cappellini.
In a sport where an experience head can often triumph over the latest piece of carbon fibre kit, don’t discount the likes of either Duarte Benavente, who finished runner up to Al Qemzi last year. Or Sami Selio, who will be standing in for their new Sharjah F2 Team driver Manea Al Marzooqi, whilst the professional Jetski Champion, who has over 96,000 Instagram followers is away competing at a jet ski race. Neither of these two drivers have driven over three thousand kilometres across Europe to get here from the bases in Portugal just to make up the numbers.
Making his return to the World Championship will be the American driver Brent Dillard, who has joined the British based JRM Racing Team. Dillard didn’t have the best of starts when he previously raced in Europe but now has David Moore as his radioman and boat provider. He will also have Jamey Stallard, who will calmly oversee all the shore-based activities, along with experienced Moore racer Mette Bjerknæs as his teammate. With these ingredients the American could be a dark horse in the title race.
Bjerknæs will be one of four British Super Licence holders racing in Poland, together with both Owen and three times F2 World Champion Colin Jelf, whilst making his UIM F2 World Championship debut will be the reigning British F2 Champion Sam Whittle. You can expect to see these four collecting a healthy number of championship points between them.
DAC drivers include Stefan Hagin, who has a new team Racing Performance Management headed up by team manager Alex Canzi behind him this season, and the Monégasques racer Giacomo Sacchi will both be in the mix come the end of the Grand Prix of Poland. Hagin will be hoping for some much-needed reliability, whilst Sacchi, who this time last year collected a bronze medal in Augustów will be looking to make up for his technical disqualification at last year’s Lithuanian F2 Grand Prix.
From Sweden comes the vastly experienced Johan Osterberg, who is the ‘works’ driver for Molgaard Racing and saw him running extremely well last weekend in Nora, Sweden. Bimba Sjöholm who, last year managed to qualify in the top six at all races, with a third-place result at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Ribadouro rewarding her with fifth overall in the World Championship, will be looking to get stuck in from the off.
From Sweden’s neighbouring county Norway come two fiercely competitive rivals Tobias Munthe-Kaas racing his BaBa hull along with a driver who might have been the last to enter this Grand Prix but was first on the results sheets in Nora and that’s Frode Sundsdal. With the multiple world champion Michael Werner in his crew, Sundsdal could surprise a few people here in Poland.
The ever-popular Uvis Slakteris makes a welcome return to the series, and it will be interesting to see if the Latvian driver still has some of that magic touch left that won him his European F2 Championship title a few seasons ago.
French boat manufacturer David Moore will have six of his hulls being raced here, two of them being campaigned by the French drivers, Philippe Tourre and Fabrice Boulier. Whilst DAC head the entry list with seven, Molgaard and BaBa both have four and Nikita Lijcs will be racing an ASV hull.
The driver getting the most media attention will no doubt be Bartek Marszalek. The Polish driver will be swapping his F1H2O outfit for an Optimax powered DAC hull when he lines up alongside the F2 competitors. The racer from Warsaw, who only two months ago became a father, will be hoping to lift the trophy in front of his adoring race fans.
It’s a huge pleasure for me to race here in Augustów in front of my polish fans. We all should be thankful to Orlen for their sponsorship of the event. The organisers have put a lot of work to make this race happen and just looking at that starting grid shows that all their effort has been truly rewarded.
The first opportunity for the fans to see the F2 competitors will be during a boat parade on Friday evening. This will see some of the competitors drive their raceboats along the Netta causeway passing the popular Nowa Szekla Tawerna & Bar on route to the town. Then the following morning the F2 contenders will take to the water for Free Practice ahead of the three-stage qualifying in the afternoon.