ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – 17th of April, 2009 – It’s only happened once, but already the new two race event format has brought a lot of opinions along with a lot of excitement for race fans and teams who now get to see two Grand Prix’s in one weekend instead of usual one as the U.I.M. F1 World Championship for power boating turns a new page in history in its 16 race schedule for the 2009 campaign. What do the teams think of the new racing format?
“Its been great not only for our team, but for the spectators as well,” stated the Manager for Team Abu Dhabi and four-time World Champion Scott Gillman. “Obviously we are pleased since each of our two drivers (Ahmad Al Hameli and Thani Al Qamzi) won a race at the Grand Prix of Portugal and I think it will take a mixture of time and education to have the race spectators understand that the first day of competition is as important as the 2nd day which was our traditional Grand Prix time. It may take a few years before everyone understands about back to back race days. This is something we need to do to educate the public about more than anything now.”
Depending how you placed in the results column had a lot to do with your feelings about the two day, two race schedule. If you were like current World Champion Jay Price of the Qatar Team who came in as the defending race winner from a year ago and then when out and finished second at the opening Grand Prix in Portimao he had mixed emotions;
“I wish we could have had a longer time to race in the first event since I thought I could have caught Ahmad,” said Jay. “If I would have had another 10 minutes, I think I could have done what I did last year and caught him again for a win. As it turned out settling for second was fine but Sunday and race two was a real disappointment since we lasted only seven laps after capturing a pole position.” The American from New Orleans went on to say; “I kind of enjoyed the traditional long buildup to the race and used to be able to relax a bit on Sunday. For the mechanics now on our team, there’s no stopping them and they are under real pressure to get it all right from the time they arrive until the second and final race is over. That’s the difference.”
Two drivers went from deep despair to delirium in 24 hours when native son Duarte Benavente of the Atlantic Team had high hopes of doing well at his “home” Grand Prix having finished twice in fourth place. On Saturday he struggled to qualify 15th and dropped out on the 30th of 38 tours for no points. On Sunday’s race two he qualified a fine seventh and finished for the first time in Portugal on the podium with a wonderful third position.
“We are so excited that we got another chance to prove ourselves and we took advantage of it on Sunday,” said Duarte. “This is the first time we’ve been on the podium in a few years and we are ready to carry this momentum to Russia in six weeks time.”
Back from a two year retirement is Great Britain’s Andy Elliott who has a pair of career wins and came from a long way back at the start on Sunday to take a fourth after starting last and picked up valuable championship points after failing to finish the first event early on Saturday when his engine caught fire in less than the first 10 laps of the event.
“We dug ourselves in a deep hole and gambled whether to purchase a new engine or go home,” said the one-time Mercury “driver of the future”. “I’m glad we made the commitment to get a new engine as it brings new vigor into the team for the next two rounds in St. Petersburg.”
Italian Francesco Cantando of the Singha Team looked as if he’s re-invented himself by qualifying 2nd at race one only to fail to finish, then coming back strongly in race two with a solid 2nd place and tied with Price for third position with 15 points in the championship.
The season is very early and with 14 more races scheduled anything can happen. However, there are a few drivers that need to get back on track quickly as two ex-World Champions failed to finish both races, beginning with the 2007 title holder Sami Selio of the Mad Croc Woodstock Racing Team who was classified 12th and 18th in Portimao. At the same moment nine-time World Champion Guido Cappellini of the Zepter Team finished 10th and 16th in his brand new DAC boat. Both will be looking to turn the trend around in Russia.
Team Abu Dhabi’s drivers Thani Al Qamzi with 29 points and Ahmad Al Hameli with 20 points are one-two in the drivers standings after the first round. Now, with just over a month to get ready the series shifts its attention to four more races in two weeks time beginning with the Ninth Grand Prix of Russia in St. Petersburg on the 4th and 6th of June, followed by the Fifth Grand Prix of Finland in Lahti on the 13th and 14th of June.
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