Stefan Hagin finally got to celebrate his second UIM F2 Grand Prix victory when he crossed the finish line at Lake Necko in Augustów, Poland.
Throughout the day the weather, which had been hot and sunny right up to Sunday morning, consisted of all four seasons in one day, may be three as the only thing absent was snow.
Conditions on the full course were about raceable during the mornings free practice but by lunch time any chance of an afternoon start rapidly diminished.
In the end the UIM F2 Race Director Pelle Larsson, who has in the past taken the tough decision to cancel races, held his nerve and waited for a weather window to open at seven in the evening.
He had also taken the decision to reduce the course from one of the longest to one of the shortest in length, plus removed the right-hand turn that had caught a few drivers out the previous day.
With the light level fading but the wind still gusting, the decision was also taken to use a rolling start on the grounds of safety. As the drivers headed out to warm up, Colin Jelf headed rapidly back towards the start pontoon. An electrical cable had shorted and caused a small blaze which the Polish Fire crews quickly extinguished. A disappointing end to his weekend.
As the drivers began to lap the course the Officer of the Day Agnieszka Grajewska waved the green flag to finally get proceedings under way. Hitting the front was the reigning world champion Rashid Al Qemzi, who had been quick all weekend. Second place was filled by Hagin while Al Qemzi’s teammate Mansoor Al Mansoori was in third.
It had hardly got under way when the rescue team arrived to check on Bimba Sjoholm, who had barrel rolled at the far side of the course. Both her and Duarte Benavente were trying to overtake Brent Dillard, who was struggling with a broken trim electrical relay, when she got slightly to close to Benavente’s engine.
The last thing I saw through the spay was his Mercury engine cover, then it was water, heaven, water, heaven. It was a stupid ‘rookie’ like thing to do, which was such a shame because I was really enjoying this new course.
Just after the half distance mark, Al Qemzi’s day was over, when as the leading boats were working their way through the backmarkers Bartek Marszalek briefly opened the door to let the Emirati driver through. Unfortunately, before he had a chance to lap him, the Polish racer closed the gap and the Team Abu Dhabi driver spun out.
In the process he lost his rear cowling but recovered enough to continue to race. Shortly after, his radioman informed him that he had to return to the pits. With his cowling missing, the timing officials had no way of identifying him.
The team told PRW that they were extremely surprised and of course disappointed that an experienced driver like Marszałek, who they have competed against previously at F1H2O races, made such an unwise decision that could affect the outcome of this year’s world championship title.
Hagin now took his chance and much to the absolute joy of his new Racing Performance Management team crossed the finish line to take victory at the Grand Prix of Poland.
It was very rough on the far side of the course so my plan was to secure second place to be honest because I knew it would be hard to catch Al Qemzi. Then I thought let’s just keep the pressure on him and see if he makes a mistake. I’m not sure exactly what happened but he told me that a driver had cut his racing line. Ok, but that’s racing and now I’m in first position.
When I was walking to the water and checking the conditions it seemed like it was getting worse and worse. Then when we went out, I could see that conditions had gotten a bit better and then it was possible to race.
So much of this victory is down to my new team because now I am less stressed as they take full responsibility to prepare the boat and everything that goes with it. I am so much charmer now as my role in the team is to get the best out of the boat which you can see I did today.
Following him home was Team Abu Dhabi’s Al Mansoori who certainly announced his intention to make a powerful challenge for this year’s title with an impressive display of racing.
It feels so great as it’s my first podium in F2 and today was a really hard race. I feel sorry for my teammate after somebody closed the door on him. I was pushing Hagin from the beginning as I have seen what this boat is capable of doing and on two occasions, I got really close but just couldn’t pass him because the conditions were really rough.
After his crash on the previous day Tobias Munthe-Kaas bounced right back with a performance good enough to secure the final podium place.
It was all going well yesterday until I got wet. My guys worked all night on the boat and finally got to bed at 4 am. Then after just four hours sleep, we were back down here again, so yes, it’s been a hard weekend but a successful one.
Fourth place went to Giacomo Sacchi who admitted that he took a gamble on which propeller to run but in the end, it paid out for the Monegasque.
We didn’t do too bad today so now we can party. I had the pace to catch Munthe-Kaas but I’m not sure I would have past him. We test a lot, but I still lack seat time in this DAC but I now the results will come. This weekend my mechanic Marco was unable to come as his wife gave birth to their daughter Bianca just a few days before, so now everyone is incredibly happy.
Pushing Sacchi all the way was Sami Selio, who was flying the Sharjah Team flag. They had suffered an early morning engine issue which they hoped they had cured.
We had a few small problems which along with the boat still not completely set up how I like it meant it was difficult to challenge for the podium today.
I normally make up a few places in the start but with a rolling one today no chance because the speeds of each driver are so similar. You need to start in the top five if you are going to really fight for the podium.
Photos Chris Davies/PRW