VILA VELHA DE RODAO: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi underlined his dominance of the 2023 UIM F2 World Championship on Saturday with another stunning performance to secure pole position for Sunday’s final Grand Prix of the season in Portugal.
Having wrapped up his fourth F2 world title with one round to spare last weekend, the Emirati driver produced another impressive display to win the seven-boat qualifying shoot-out in dramatic fashion at Vila Velha de Rodao.
Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko briefly looked to be heading for a repeat of his pole position success in Peso da Regua when he squeezed ahead of Al-Qemzi late in the session, but the champion responded with a brilliant final lap to take the honors.
Norway’s Tobias Munthe-Kaas set the third-fastest qualifying time ahead of Portugal’s Duarte Benavente, Estonian Stefan Arand, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori and Sweden’s Mathilda Wiberg.
While the title race pressure is removed for Al-Qemzi, he is determined to complete the season with a third Grand Prix success of the campaign tomorrow afternoon following wins in Lithuania and Italy.
The battle for the championship’s silver and bronze medal positions is still wide open, however, and there was fierce competition for qualifying places, with the intensity set to continue tomorrow.
It was on the Tagus River at Vila Velha de Rodao two years ago that Al-Qemzi scored a second Grand Prix victory in the space of eight days to wrap up his third F2 world title.
Happy to be back at the venue, a week after adding to his title triumphs in 2017, 2019 and 2021, Al-Qemzi was fastest in the free practice session, while Abu Dhabi teammate Al-Mansoori made a late surge to set the third-best time.
Al-Qemzi then cruised through the first of two qualifying rounds behind Benavente, with Wiberg setting the third-quickest time ahead of Al-Mansoori.
With just 13 points separating Riabko, Arand, Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi, Britain’s Colin Jelf and Al-Mansoori in the tussle for the two remaining overall podium places, the stage is set for a big climax to the season.
It has been a fiercely competitive championship season, and Al-Qemzi has risen to the challenge superbly to join Swede Erik Stark in the record books as a four-time F2 champion.