Walking around the race pits following the qualification for the 2019 UIM F2 Grand Prix of Lithuania today, you would have been left with a distinct feeling of high points and some serious low ones.
Amongst the twenty-six drivers that had entered the first of five rounds that make up the series was the young Finnish racer Kalle Viippo who had a huge accident during Free Practice. His Molgaard hull flew over one metres through the air in a time Usain Bolt would have been proud of. Fortunately, he was able to scramble clear of the upturned hull and was released from hospital with a badly sprained ankle. “I had a big accident today” said Viippo. “I’m almost one hundred percent ok but my ankle is very sore. The boat is not so good, but we will work on it so that we can race at the UIM F2 European Championship in few weeks’ time.” Another driver not making it through to the Qualifying sessions was the German racer Mike Szymura after his Gordon Cook prepared BaBa hull delaminated after the driver hit a submerged object.
With the remaining drivers now split into three groups all eyes were keeping a watching brief on the breezy conditions, unfortunately for Rashed Al Tayer it would catch him out though just after the right-hand turn. The Emirate was another driver fortunate to escape without serious injury, but the Team Abu Dhabi DAC hull would need a new air-bag system and pickle fork fitted before it can line up for tomorrows Grand Prix.
Amongst those having a better day and will line up on the grid just after they finish their Sunday lunch are the Swedish trio of Daniel Segenmark, Johan Österberg and Ola Pettersson, but a couple of the pre-race ‘favourites’ had a day to forget and will now face the fate of the repêchage. Local hero and event organiser Edgaras Riabko has been slightly busy these past few weeks. That and the late arrival of his new engine meant the Lithuanian was unable to carry out a thorough test on his new Optimax 200. He was also struggling with getting the balance just to his liking and soon found he was out of time and out of luck. “We had problems all morning” said a disappointed Riabko, “so we decided to run a standard unit, but I could only get 7500 rpm out of it, way short of what I needed. It’s going to be a long night for crane operator, but it should be ok as he lives local.”
A man who most certainly doesn’t live locally but will also be joining Riabko in the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ is Brent Dillard. Engine issues had been causing the team lots of head scratching and it was only later that they discovered damaged to the compressor which had caused tiny pieces to block the fuel injection system. “I was losing power towards the end of Free Practice” said Dillard. “It’s so frustrating to have to go via the repêchage but hopefully we can put on a good show before the final. I’m going to show Europe how an American does an inverted start.”
So that left us with some unfamiliar names on the grid now able to take it slightly easier on Sunday morning. The front row though was certainly made up of familiar one starting in third secured by Tobias Munthe-Kaas. “The whole day I felt we had the pace” said the Norwegian racer, “We showed that we can bring the fight to them, now I just need to bring the speed” he finished off by asking a rather pointed but amusing question “who is Brent?”
Another driver also happy with his early season performance was Stefan Hagin. “I’m actually more relived to be in second place because trying to find a clear lap in Q2 was extremely difficult today.”
One man certainly made it look easy though and that was Rashed Al Qemzi, who won the first ever Lithuanian Grand Prix to take place in Kaunas. The Team Abu Dhabi driver had topped the timing sheets in all his qualifying sessions and only took him one lap to dislodged Hagin from the top spot. “This is the fruit of our labours” said Guido Cappellini, the Abu Dhabi Team Principal who recently signed a new agreement with the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club to manage the team through till 2025. “We have no secrets, it’s just down to hard work through the winter months, we test, test, test three or four times a week. Today people talk about ‘Engine Blueprint’ in fact Al Qemzi raced today with the same engine we ran last year and still delivered the result.”
The action gets back under way on Sunday with Drivers Briefing at 10:00 followed by practice for the nine drivers in the repêchage at 11:00. Later at 15:00 local time sees the start of the Grand Prix of Lithuania followed by prize giving at 16:30. To follow the Live Steam head over to the F2 YouTube Channel via the UIM F2 website.