Grand Prix of Russia 2011 is the third race of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship and will be held over the weekend of 16th and 17th July.
by Philippe Stiernon
In a history that goes back to 1995, the 12th Grand Prix of Russia will make its first stop in the ancient city of Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) East of Russian capital Moscow. If past performances are any indicator this should be a very entertaining race weekend.
In the past, Grand Prix's in Russia have had a variety of unexpected moments, with surprising pole sitters, long shot winners including a mixture of multiple mishaps that have changed the course of almost each Grand Prix.
At the first staged UIM F1 H2O race in Russia back in 1995, 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini of Italy out duelled Michael Werner of Germany who had won three of the first four races that season to capture his first of three wins in Russia in his nine starts in the land of the Czars on his way to his third championship.
Another Italian World Champion Fabrizio Bocca was lucky to survive a horrendous crash in a pre-race session in 1996 in an event where the late South African Anton Van Heerden earned his first and only pole position of his career eventually finishing fifth in the contest.
The 1997 race is remembered for American driver Scott Gillman capturing the first of his 23 career victories on his way to becoming a four-time World Champion. The Los Angeles, California driver survived the rough water conditions, while four other drivers crashed out including two World Champions in Cappellini and Jonathan Jones of Cardigan, Wales. Later in the year Cappellini would make up for his mistake with a victory in Moscow on his way to his final trip to the 'top step' in any Russian event over his 20 year career.
Two Grand Prix's were held in Russia in 1998 and again in 1999 with Scott Gillman leading both events in 1998 winning in St. Petersburg but failing to finish in Moscow catapulting the now retired Finnish star Pertti Leppala to his first ever Grand Prix win. A year later weather conditions cancelled the St. Petersburg event while Gillman out duelled Cappellini for the win in a very exciting event in Gorky Park in Moscow.
It took nine years for the races to return to Russia and in 2008 Swedish standout Jonas Andersson won his second Grand Prix of the season and his second of his career holding off Sami Selio to win his first of two back to back wins in Russia, in races he finished, in the next two years. The native of Fruvi, Sweden re-energized his career with his victory in the second race of the '09 campaign.
American driver Jay Price of the Qatar Team, who currently leads this season's World Championship with two straight victories in Doha and Portimao, Portugal earned a victory from the pole position at the first event of 2009 in St. Petersburg. He was striving for two straight wins when he crashed in qualifying leading to a failure to get his engine started, thus becoming an unwanted spectator going a long way in him eventually losing his shot for back to back World Championships that season.
A year ago Finland's Sami Selio of the Mad Croc F1 Team captured his eighth career victory from pole position out racing his then teammate Italian Alex Carella and Jay Price on his way to his second World Championship title.
Kazan, Russia's eighth largest city with a population of over 1.1 million will be hosting a UIM F1 H2O Grand Prix for the first time marking it as the third city in Russia to welcome a Grand Prix event. The city is situated at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. In 2009 the city was voted as the 'Sports City of Russia' as well as it was granted the 'Third Capital' of the country. The famous Kazan Kremlin is a World Heritage Site.
Many questions remain unanswered leading up to the event. Will Jay Price keep his win streak alive? Will Sami Selio win for the second year in a row? Will Team Abu Dhabi find a much needed victory? Or will Team Sweden with Jonas Andersson and his rookie teammate Shaun Torrente of Miami, Florida steal a victory this time around? Or will Norway's Marit Stromoy capture her first victory becoming the first women to win a major motor sports event?
All these queries and more are just a matter of a week away as the UIM F1 H2O World Championship and its logistics train heads east from Italy bringing the teams to Kazan and the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan for the third Grand Prix of the 2011 campaign in what will be a memorable and historic debut weekend on the 16th and 17th of July. So, stay tuned! F1 H20 Championship website
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11:27 AM Wed 6 Jul 2011 GMT
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