U.I.M. F1 H2O Worlds: Team Abu Dhabi aims to keep streak alive in Northern Europe

The history of the U.I.M. F1 H2O World Championship dates all the way back 28 years ago. During this time, the series has been known for its many challenging and difficult race circuits that make these Grand Prix events the most daring in all of water sports.

A few examples of the “rough and tough” circuits these catamaran boats have raced on during their history include the open large expanse of Lake Como in Italy. The mountain lake was the setting for the original Grand Prix back in summer of 1981 and with its turbulent winds coming from the foothills of the Alps combined with ferry boat traffic makes this one of the most difficult to master.

The exposed race circuit of the open ocean along the waterfront in downtown Doha and the Grand Prix of Qatar mixes the swells with the sublime of the almost mill pond inner harbor feeling at the other end of the two kilometer lap. Get it right and you’ve earned pole position, get it wrong and you quickly go airborne like a Boeing 777. If you don’t believe it check the pole position qualifying action of two years ago that saw two recent World Champions fly and then stall into the water at over 220 kilometers or 130 miles per hour.

As the 2009 campaign rolls into the lovely setting of Lahti, Finland being the host city for the second straight year and the back to back races on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th of June, the large and looming expanse of Lake Vesijarvi has in just one year become the signature event for daring driving. As this circuit awaits ready to swallow up the non-suspecting drivers that don’t appreciate the lakes personality that is non-forgiving.

“This had to be one of the most punishing places I’ve ever raced on,” said current World Champion Jay Price of the Qatar Team. “I personally had a great day coming from almost last in18th position to finish less than two seconds from victory in 2nd place. This all happened despite a drive by penalty I had to accomplish as well. I attribute my years of experience in being able to read the water and I look forward to another challenge that the lake will throw at me again. I’m psyched.”

Last years Grand Prix winner Guido Cappellini of the Zepter Team captured his only victory of the season in Lahti eventually finishing a career worst 10th in the championship with 27 points. The Grand Prix in Finland also marks the last race he has actually finished as he enters the race in Finland looking for his first points of the season as he continues to dream of winning his 10th World Championship title before he retires.

The 2009 campaign has all been about Team Abu Dhabi as the 4-time World Champion and now Team Manager Scott Gillman has led his two talented drivers Ahmad Al Hameli and Thani Al Qamzi to victories in the first two races at the Grand Prix of Portugal in Portimao back in early April.

Ahmad, second in the championship with 20 points, reached the podium with a fine 3rd place in Lahti last season. Thani, who leads the current championship with 29 points after a fourth place and a win in Portimao, a year ago in Finland, pushed for the lead before crashing out for the only time during the season on the lake.

The pressure cooker will once again be squarely placed on local hero and 2007 World Champion Sami Selio of the Mad Croc F1 Team Woodstock group. The Helsinki driver hopes for better things this time around after qualifying 7th last season and dropping out in 14th position in the race leaving with no points in only two of his eight races in last years championship which he finished 2nd at seasons end with 69 points. After the first two rounds of this campaign the 34 year-old is hoping to earn his first points after failing to finish both two races in Portugal.

A driver who is having a “rebirth” of sorts to his career is Italian Francesco Cantando as the Milanese driver of the Singha F1 Racing Team comes in tied for 3rd in the championship with Jay Price at 15 points on the strength of a 2nd place in race two in Portugal. Last year he crashed out spectacularly while fighting with Cappellini for the early lead in the race for his only mishap of the season on his way to 11th in the overall driver’s championship.

A few Scandinavian pilots of note are in full swing for the title this season with 14 more races to go before the final lap in early December in the United Arab Emirates. Swedish native Jonas Andersson of the F1 Team Azerbaijan effort is sitting with 12 points in the championship coming off a 3rd at the opening race. In Lahti a year ago, having a weekend he’d love to forget qualifying 22nd and dropping out in the 13th position, Jonas went on to finish a fine 3rd in the championship with a pair of wins in 2008 and gaining 62 points in the process.

Norway’s Marit Stromoy is having a better start to her 2nd full season as Jonas’s teammate, having placed in the top-10 in both races this season thus far with a seventh and an eighth. This is a far cry from last season when she failed to complete any of her four starts including a pair of crashes with one being in Lahti that was a signature of her season a year ago.

So, with the 5th Grand Prix of Finland less than two weeks away, will the beautiful peaceful setting that is the city of Lahti bring back the roar of its Lake Vesijarvi? A special challenge where daring and dash is the signature to success with caution thrown out the window as every driver is asked to ride on the edge for not one but two Grand Prix’s on the weekend of the 12th and 13th of June. The early championship leaders may start to separate the “haves from the have not’s” when the weekend is completed.