Peso da Régua: It was a day of action-filled drama after Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashid Al Qamzi survived a test of nerve in Portugal on Saturday. But despite some setbacks, the Emirati driver stayed firmly on course for a fourth drivers’ title in the UIM F2 World Championship.
While the Team Abu Dhabi star was denied pole position by a late burst from Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko, he goes into Sunday’s penultimate round of the season knowing he will be champion again if he can take victory from second place at the start.
There were some anxious moments on the day for Al Qamzi when he flipped and damaged his boat during the morning free practice session.
It meant the Team Abu Dhabi technicians had to race against time to get the boat ready for the afternoon qualifying sessions at Peso da Régua, the new F2 venue in northern Portugal.
But the three-time champion refused to be unsettled by the drama ahead of Sunday’s first leg of the Grand Prix of Portugal, with the final round to follow a week later on the Tagus river in Vila Velha de Ródão.
He cruised through the first of two qualifying rounds in fourth place, as Portugal’s Duarte Benavente, who finished runner-up to Al Qamzi twice on home territory two years ago, set the fastest time ahead of Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi and Riabko.
For much of the six-boat shootout, Al Qemzi looked to be heading for another pole position triumph, before Riabko took the honours with a superb late lap.
Estonia’s Stefan Arand qualified in third place, ahead of Benavente, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al Mansoori and Sacchi.
Back-to-back Grand Prix victories on successive weekends in Portugal two years ago secured a third F2 World crown for Al Qemzi, who is looking to maintain his 100 per cent winning record this season after victories in Lithuania and Italy.
He goes back into action tomorrow holding a 16-point championship cushion over Sacchi, with Arand two points further away in third.
If he follows Swede Erik Stark into the record books as the second driver to win the F2 crown four times, it will be the 17th world title delivered by Guido Cappellini since he took over as Team Abu Dhabi manager eight years ago.
Teammate Al Mansoori, who competed alongside Al Qamzi to help Team Abu Dhabi win the UIM World Endurance Championships two years ago, is also aiming for a big finish to the season in Portugal.
2023 UIM F2 World Championship leading positions
1. Rashid Al Qamzi (UAE) 40pts
2. Giacomo Sacchi (MON) 24
3. Stefan Arand (EST) 22
4. Daniel Segenmark Sweden 15
5. Colin Jelf GBR) 11
5. Mette Bjerknæs (GBR) 10
5. Edgaras Riabko (LTU) 9
8. Samuel Lucas (AUS) 7
9. Johan Österberg (SWE) 7
10. Mansoor al Mansouri 4