Strong winds force Q3 to be cancelled; pole position for Benavente and ninth for Al-Qemzi
RIBADOURO (PORTUGAL): Sunday, October 8: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi delivered a polished and professional performance to finish fourth and clinch the UIM F2 World Championship title in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portugal on the Douro River.
The Emirati, running out of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC), started the race from ninth place and gradually moved up the leader board to ensure that he secured enough points to deprive Swedish rival Pierre Lundin of the opportunity to make a late bid for the title. Lundin shadowed local driver and pole position winner Duarte Benavente from the start to the chequered flag, but second place was not enough to deprive a delighted Al-Qemzi of his second world title in two season – the Emirati won last year’s UIM F4-S Trophy.
“This is a special day for me and everyone within Team Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club,” said Al-Qemzi. “This title is for everyone who has supported me and to the whole team for all their efforts this season. I knew what I had to do. Losing Q3 because of the wind did not help at all, but I managed my race well and we have been rewarded with the World Championship.”
Italy’s Alberto Comparato finished third on the day and Frenchman Nelson Morin was fifth and managed to finish third in the championship standings. Mohammed Al-Mehairbi started the race form 17th of the 18 starters in the second Team Abu Dhabi boat and moved up to 16th before succumbing to technical issues after 18 laps.
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.
GP of Portugal – the race
In calm conditions, Benavente led the way at the start from Lundin, Ferdinand Zandbergen and Morin, with Al-Qemzi down in ninth and needing to push his way through the field to prevent Lundin snatching the F2 title in the 45-lap race. Al-Mehairbi squeezed into the race in 17th.
Al-Qemzi made a good start and was able to move up to sixth on the opening lap, as Benavente and Lundin held on to first and second places. But the yellow flag was raised at the start of lap three after Tobias Munthe-Kaas stopped on the course, his demise promoting Al-Mehairbi to 16th.
Racing resumed on lap six and Benavente continued to hold the lead from Lundin and Zandbergen, as Al-Qemzi climbed to fifth after briefly slipping to seventh. The Emirati remained on course for the world title and held his position through the next few laps behind Benavente, Lundin, Zandbergen and Comparato.
The top 10 held station through 19 laps and Tem Abu Dhabi began the agonizing countdown of the laps to the chequered flag. If the positions remained like this, Lundin would earn 15 points Al-Qemzi’s seven and the Emirati would win the title by five points. But the Emirati continued to press on and managed to snatch fourth place at the expense of Zandbergen heading into lap 27.
By two-thirds distance, after 30 laps, Benavente led Lundin by just 2.16 seconds and, despite constant pressure from Lundin, the veteran Portuguese racer held on to seal an historic win on home waters by just 1.75 seconds. Comparato rounded off the podium and Al-Qemzi reached the finish in fourth to claim the world title.
Qualifying was delayed for over two hours and eventually got underway late on Saturday afternoon with the entrants split into the customary two groups. Lundin was fastest in the first group of 11 with a time of 44.32sec from Al-Qemzi with a lap of 44.57sec and third-placed Benavente with 44.59sec. Alberto Comparato and Héctor Sanz Lopez rounded off the top five.
Sweden’s Oskar Samuelsson topped the timings in Group B with a lap of 44.69sec, which was 0.21 seconds faster than runner-up Ferdinand Zandbergen. Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko, Tobias Munthe-Kaas and Sweden’s Johan Österberg completed the top five. Al-Mehairbi improved substantially on his best time from free practice with a lap of 45.91sec but missed out on Q2.
Benavente continued his run of form to win the Q2 session with a lap of 43.90sec from Lundin, Zandbergen, Morin and Österberg, with Al-Qemzi down in ninth place after pitting mid-session for a propeller change. Those times were eventually used to determine the starting order for the race after Q3 was cancelled on Sunday morning because of strong wind. It meant that the Portuguese driver claimed pole position for his home race and Al-Qemzi was unable to improve on ninth position.
Twenty-two boats lined up for practice on Saturday morning, but the adverse weather that has cursed this year’s UIM F2 World Championship struck again and a strong wind forced the postponement of free practice after the session had originally been delayed by one hour.
Entrants were eventually allowed on to the water for 90 minutes and Lopez, from Riba Roja d’Ebre in Catalunya, claimed the fastest lap of 44.60sec from a tying local hero Duarte Benavente and Al-Qemzi on 44.75sec. Sweden’s Pierre Lundin was fourth, while Al-Mehairbi recorded a best time of 48.72sec for 20th position.
All 22 boats were permitted on to the course for a second free practice session on Sunday lunchtime. Munthe-Kaas clocked the fastest time of 45.06sec, but it was more an opportunity for the leading drivers to finalise their race set-ups heading into the afternoon.
2017 Grand Prix of Portugal – race result:
1. Duarte Benavente (POR) Atlantic Team 45 laps
2. Pierre Lundin (SWE) Lundin F1 Racing @1.75sec
3. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comporato F2 @24.66sec
4. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi @27.94sec
5. Nelson Morin (FRA) F1 China CTIC Team @28.94sec
6. Oskar Samuelsson (SWE) OS Racing L1
7. Daniel Segenmark (SWE) Segenmark Racing L1
8. Ola Pettersson (SWE) Skåne Racing Team F2 L1
9. Edgaras Riabko (LIT) F2 Lithuania L1
10. Héctor Sanz Lopez (ESP) Icar Nautica Racing L1
11. Johan Österberg (SWE) Team AJO L1
12. Owen Jelf (GBR) Owen Jelf Racing L1
UIM F2 World Championship – final positions (unofficial):
1. Rashed Al-Qemzi (UAE) Team Abu Dhabi 41pts
2. Pierre Lundin (SWE) Lundin F1 Racing 35pts
3. Nelson Morin (FRA) F1 China CTIC Team 23pts
4. Duarte Benavente (POR) Atlantic Team 20pts
5. Ola Pettersson (SWE) Skåne Racing Team F2 16pts
6. Johan Österberg (SWE) Team AJO 15pts
6. Konstantin Ustinov (RUS) New Star 15pts
6. Edgaras Riabko (LIT) F2 Lithuania 15pts
9. Alberto Comparato (ITA) Comporato F2 12pts
10. Oskar Samuelsson (SWE) OS Racing 11pts
11. Daniel Segenmark (SWE) Segenmark Racing 10pts