Adverse weather and logistical issues also force cancellation of Saturday’s timed racing programme
ANTWERP (BELGIUM): Sunday, July 23: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi has maintained his lead in the UIM F2 World Championship in extraordinary circumstances after the Grand Prix of Belgium, scheduled to be staged on Antwerp’s River Scheldt on Sunday afternoon, was abandoned.
Logistical issues within the organisation and hazardous weather conditions had played havoc with Saturday’s timetable and, even though all 26 boats took to the water for a practice session on Sunday morning, two boats flipped in the session and strong river currents and ongoing weather issues swayed the drivers into agreeing to abandon the race meeting on safety grounds, pending an official UIM confirmation.
It means it was a wasted journey to Belgium for many people, none more so than for Team Abu Dhabi’s Al-Qemzi and Mohammed Al-Mehairbi and all the staff from the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).
Etihad Airways is the official carrier for Team Abu Dhabi that is also supported by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club and under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, Vice-President and CEO of the ADIMSC. The racing team runs under the auspices of the ADIMSC and board member and general manager Salem Al-Remeithi and team manager Guido Cappellini.
Logistical issues and adverse weather conditions meant that on-water action was ruined on Saturday and the plan was to shoehorn the weekend’s racing into a packed itinerary for Sunday. The decision was taken to allow non-timed free practice on Saturday afternoon, but a thunderstorm put paid to that idea for a time, although most of the drivers did manage to get on to the water at the end of the day for a short non-timed session.
Pelle Larsson, the UIM Sports Commissioner, said: “The wave height was a real concern for me. That, along with other issues, made the circuit un-race able. I appreciate that if you race in the UIM F2 World Championship, then you should have experience of rough water racing. So I went out in a rescue rib with the F2 Drivers’ Representative, Owen Jelf, and he agreed with me that it was too rough. When someone with his experience says that, then I listen, because I value his input.”
Twenty-six boats eventually took part in the first of the timed sessions on the River Scheldt on Sunday morning and England’s Owen Jelf carded the quickest lap of 46.57sec during 24 tours of the course in his Babe. Germany’s Nick Bisterfield was second and Al-Qemzi and Al-Mehairbi ran for nine and 14 laps, respectively, and were 10th and 24th.
But qualifying was cancelled and the Grand Prix of Belgium was scheduled for 15.30hrs, although drivers met beforehand to discuss whether the race should actually go-ahead or not and decided that the ill-fated weekend should be abandoned.
UIM F2 World Championship – positions after round two:
1. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 20pts
2. Johan Österberg (SWE) Team AJO 15pts
3. Edgaras Riabko (LIT) F2 Lithuania 12pts
4. Nelson Morin (FRA) F1 China CTIC Team 9pts
5. Owen Jelf (GBR) Owen Jelf Racing 7pts
6. Erik Edin (SWE) Team Eden 5pts
7. Ola Pettersson (SWE) Skåne Racing Team F2 4pts
8. Ferdinand Zandbergen (NED) Mad Croc Baba Racing 3pts
9. Oskar Samuelsson (SWE) OS Racing 2pts
10. Daniel Segenmark (SWE) SF2R 1pt