Rashed Al Qemzi on his way to historic first F2 Abu Dhabi victory
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi proved that the decision to give him a UIM F2 World Championship programme was a good one at this weekend’s Lithuanian Grand Prix on Kaunas Reservoir. The talented young Emirati gave Team Abu Dhabi a stunning pole position for the first time in this prestigious racing discipline on Saturday afternoon and went on to finish the yellow flag dominated race in first place to storm into the series lead.
In a race that eventually got going at the third attempt with a rolling start under a yellow flag, Al-Qemzi led from start-to-finish and fended off the challenge from Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko to claim the victory. Riabko was passed in the closing seconds by Sweden’s Johan Österberg, who claimed second position.
“This is a memorable day for Team Abu Dhabi, Rashed and everyone connected with the team,” said Salem Al-Remeithi, general manager of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC). “Rashed showed in qualifying that he was the fastest man on the course and he overcame a very difficult and interrupted race to claim the victory.”
Al-Qemzi claimed his pole position with a time of 42.77sec. Local hero Edgaras Riabko qualified second (42.98sec) and Tobias Munthe-Kaas made the successful switch from the UIM F4-S racing discipline to snatch third (43.00sec). The leading 15 drivers qualified for the race, but Al-Qemzi’s team-mate Mohammed Al-Mehairbi was one of seven entrants who was forced to run in a Repecharge race on the 1.66km course early on Sunday afternoon to try and qualify for the main race. He had been eliminated from the original qualifying session in Q1.
That Repecharge race list included Uvis Slakteris, who had qualified in fourth only to discover that his Molgaard hull was under weight. Italy’s Alberto Comparato went on to win the Repecharge and make the main Grand Prix, with Slakteris finishing second and Al-Mehairbi slotting into third place and making the race by the skin of his teeth. He eventually retired from 16th place after 30 laps.
Italy’s David Del Pin pipped Riabko to victory in the Match Race on Saturday afternoon although Riabko won the Speed Record from Owen Jelf.
“Since last year we have made big step improvements to the boat that Alex Carella used in Finland,” said Team Abu Dhabi’s team manager and 10-time UIM F1 H2O World Champion Guido Cappellini. “It was very flat out there for the whole pole position and I’m optimistic now that we can do well every time. We don’t just build boats for smooth conditions.”
Al-Qemzi lined up ahead of Riabko and Munthe-Kaas in ideal racing conditions with Al-Mehairbi down in 18th of the 20 starters. Al-Qemzi and Edin made a superb start, but the race was yellow flagged within seconds after Munthe-Kaas spectacularly flipped out of contention. Boats were forced to regroup at the pontoon for a second start and Riabko began to challenge Al-Qemzi from the outset, but the race was stopped again after a collision between Del Pin and an irate Matthew Palfreyman.
Take three, and the boats reassembled on the pontoon for the third start, although the decision was then taken to release them in qualifying order and use a rolling start under a yellow flag. Al-Qemzi maintained his lead through the opening laps from Riabko and Johan Österberg. Al-Mehairbi was running 15th of the 17 survivors.
By lap 10, Al-Qemzi led Riabko by 2.88 seconds and the difference was down to 1.78 seconds after 15 laps as the duo continued to pull away from Österberg and Nelson Morin. The Team Abu Dhabi driver appeared to have survived the Riabko challenge and began to edge further ahead over the subsequent few laps to lead by 4.22 seconds after 20 tours. Al-Mehairbi held 16th.
Al-Qemzi led by 3.12 seconds through lap 25 but Riabko began to lose even more time and was running 10.25 seconds behind the Emirati after lap 27 and 11.56 seconds three laps later. But the yellow flag was raised on lap 35 for a third time when Harri Lahti flipped his boat in a serious incident. Al-Mehairbi and Rupert Temper also retired.
Action resumed on lap 45 with 14 boats still running. Al-Qemzi maintained a lead of 5.41 seconds after lap 48, but Osterberg managed to slip passed Riabko to snatch second place soon afterwards, as Al-Qemzi reached the chequered flag to claim a famous victory for Team Abu Dhabi.
The next round of the UIM F2 World Championship takes place at Antwerp in Belgium on July 22-23.
UIM F2 Lithuanian Grand Prix – result (unofficial)
1. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 48 laps
2. Johan Österberg (SWE) Team AJO @5.41sec
3. Edgaras Riabko (LIT) F2 Lithuania @6.94sec
4. Nelson Morin (FRA) F1 China CTIC Team @11.60sec
5. Owen Jelf (GBR) Owen Jelf Racing @14.72sec
6. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Edin @16.69sec
7. Ola Pettersson (SWE) Skåne Racing Team F2 @18.60sec
Report by Neil Perkins