UIM F1 H2O World Championship, round two, Grand Prix of Portugal - 21st and 22nd of May.
'The Times, They Are A Changing' is a famous line in an early 1960's song from folk artist Bob Dylan who felt the mood of the Western World at that time and knew life wasn't going to remain the same... and it didn't.
With that said, every competitor who is getting ready for the UIM F1 H2O World Championship's second race of the 2011 campaign is hoping that they can change the tide of success that Team Abu Dhabi has celebrated the last two years going into the 13th Annual Grand Prix of Portugal the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of May.
The history of this event goes back to 1999, when now retired Guido Cappellini of Como, Italy, won the first five straight races including seven of the first eight. However, since that time, the race results have changed dramatically.
In 2007 another now retired multi-time World Champion Scott Gillman of Los Angeles, California won his 23rd and final victory starting a trend for Team Abu Dhabi that has been kept up nicely by his two protojeys Ahmed Al Hameli and Thani Al Qamzi, who together have won the last three Grand Prix's on the Arade River.
Ahmed won the first of two events in 2009 in Portimao and took the victory again last year. Overall, 2010 was a disappointing season for Al Hameli as he failed to finish four straight races in mid-season thus, hijacking any chances of a first championship despite winning the final event of the season last December in Sharjah.
The 31 year-old from Abu Dhabi started this season in Doha failing to finish after qualifying second quickest and charging up into the top ten before dropping out of the event and gaining no points. Ahmed has been on the podium in the last three races he's finished at the Grand Prix of Portugal after taking his first pole and a second in the 2008 event.
Teammate Thani Al Qamzi, won the second of two Grand Prix's in Portimao in 2009. Surprisingly enough however, this is also his last victory on the tour for the five time winner. However, Thani has to feel good that in the last two races in Portugal he's won and finished third after starting a lowly 13th on the grid in 2010. This years race will mark Thani's ninth start on the Algarve Coast.
There has been other success in Portugal over the years and other drivers who have done well in the past could be major players this year as well. Starting with 2008 winner and current leader in the World Championship in Qatar Team driver Jay Price who is coming off a victory at his race teams home event in Doha back in March.
The American from New Orleans, Louisiana had a memorable battle with Al Hameli back in his World Championship season in 2008 taking a dramatic victory passing Ahmed late in the event and earning his first of 10 career Grand Prix events in the process. Jay has recorded three podiums and four top five's in his last four finishes in Portimao since joining the tour full time back in 2006.
Italian veteran Francesco Cantando of the Singha F1 Team a three time runner-up in the championship over his 16 seasons on the UIM F1 H20 tour, has finished five times in second place in Portimao while still chasing his first victory on the challenging circuit. Last year the driver from Milan had pole position and again finished second at races end.
Francesco, along with Portugal native Duarte Benavente of the F1 Atlantic Team, are the only drivers in the field that have competed in all 12 previous events. Durate's best finish was a podium placing third in race two of the 2009 campaign while qualifying a fine third on the grid last season only to fail to finish.
Oddly enough defending World Champion Sami Selio of the Mad Croc F1 Team has almost been cursed in Portimao having never won or done particularly well in Portugal.During his previous 11 starts, Sami has gained just one podium second place in 2002. Since his fourth place finish in 2007 Sami has been penalized and finished eighth in 2008, had two failures to finish in 2009 and was disqualified last year from the event. Can this be the season he turns it around?
Will the streak for Team Abu Dhabi continue this season? We are about to find out in less than a months time as the UIM F1 H2O World Championship series for powerboating heads to the lovely Algarve city of Portimao for the start of its European season and the 12th straight year and the 13th Grand Prix of Portugal on the 21st and 22nd of May.
F1 H20 website