Ribadouro: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al Qemzi narrowly missed out on pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Portugal on a day of drama in the penultimate round of the 2022 UIM F2 World Championship.
The three-times F2 world champion looked to be heading through as the fastest qualifier, before he was edged out by 0.320 seconds as Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi made a late surge to win the six-boat shoot-out.
It was a difficult day for Al Qemzi’s team-mate, world championship leader Mansoor Al Mansoori, whose challenge in qualifying was cut short by engine problems and will start tomorrow afternoon’s Grand Prix near the back of the field.
The consolation for Al Mansoori was that his closest challenger in the title race, Germany’s Stefan Hagin who lies three points behind him, was also forced out by technical problems in the first of two back-to-back Grand Prix race weekends in Portugal. Barring non finishes for Al Mansoori and his two closest challengers, Hagin and Sharjah Team’s Sami Seliö, Al Qemzi cannot retain his world title.
The Emirati, however, is determined to round of the season with victory in Ribadouro, and then produce a repeat performance in Vila Velha de Ródão next weekend, as he did last year to secure his third world F2 crown. He underlined that mood in today’s delayed free practice session on the River Douro, setting the fastest time ahead of Sacchi and Selio, with Norwegian Tobias Munthe-Kaas, home favourite Duarte Benavente, and Al Mansoori completing the top six.
While Al Qemzi later cruised through the first of three qualifying sessions with the third fastest time, mechanical issues forced Al Mansoori into an early pit stop before he headed back out onto the 1,765m circuit to comfortably reach the next phase.
After a gusting wind delayed the start of the second qualifying stage, Al Qemzi set the second fastest time just behind Sacchi, but engine problems brought Al Mansoori to a halt.
UIM F2 World Championship leading positions
1. Mansoor Al Mansoori (UAE) 35pts
2. Stefan Hagin (GER) 32
3. Sami Seliö (UAE) 22
4. Tobias Munthe-Kaas (NOR) 12
5. Edgaras Riabko (LTU) 11
6. Giacomo Sacchi (MON) 9
7. Rashed Al Qemzi (UAE) 9
8. Nikita Lijcs (LAT) 6