Grand Prix of the Republic of Tatarstan, the second event of the 2012 UIM F1 H2O World Championship for power boating, gets underway over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd June. The upcoming Grand Prix marks only the second time the event has ever traveled to Kazan, but the history of Russian Grand Prix's is one of the richest in the sport and full of drama dating back 17 years to 1995.
Who could forget one of the most special and unpredictable pole sitting performances placed on the sport, dating back in 1996 in St. Petersburg, when the late South African driver Anton Van Heerden outdistanced eventual 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini of Italy and multi-time World Title holder Jonathan Jones of Wales for his first and only career pole position.
During that same weekend 1992, World Champion Fabrizio Bocca of Italy almost had his career come to an end when he survived a horrendous crash in a pre-race session on the tricky Neva River. He would rally and race another 15 seasons and finish with 144 Grand Prix starts.
The 1997 event marked an historic day for the sports second all-time leading race winner. American Scott Gillman, from California won the first of his 23 career victories in St. Petersburg battling the elements and the rough water, winning, while ex-World Champions Cappellini and Jones crashed out in what turned out to be Scott's eventual start to his success of the first of four world titles.
No driver has raced more in Russia than Guido Cappellini. The driver from Como had 10 starts to his resume, winning in 1995, 1996 and again in Moscow in 1997. Oddly enough, after such a great start, the racing God's were never again with him as he failed to win in six more tries. Guido's 87 total points are more than any other driver in the history of the sport in the Russian Federation.
Scott Gillman's name, however, stands out as the most successful driver in Grand Prix history in Russia. Despite running in only six races, he won three times in 1997, 1998 and 1999 earning 84 points failing to reach the podium just once ( a fourth place finish last year in Kazan) in the five races he finished.
Scott, as Team Racing Manager, will lead his Team Abu Dhabi squad into Kazan this year with his driver Ahmed Al Hameli heading the championship with 20 points after taking the opening round at the Grand Prix of Qatar back in March.
Italian veteran Francesco Cantando of the Singha Team, currently the longest running driver starting his 136th Grand Prix, is coming to Russia for his 10th race, looking for his first ever victory. His best classification thus far has been a runner-up position to Gillman back in St. Petersburg in 1998. For a driver who ranks fifth in all-time F1 H2O victories with 12, he is hoping desperately to end his bad luck in Kazan in 2012.
Meanwhile, a pair of Scandinavian drivers have had success in the country in the past, with two-time World Champion Sami Selio of Finland leading his Mad Croc F1 Team to victory in 2010 while Swedish driver Jonas Andersson of Team Sweden doing even better as he took the honors in 2008 and again in 2009 re-energizing his career in the process.
Selio, who is back following a horrendous crash at the Grand Prix of China last fall, sits third in the championship with 12 points after the opening round in Qatar. While Jonas Andersson is hoping to finish in the points after leaving the race early in Doha after just 10 laps and no points yet this season.
Last year, it was all about young Italian Alex Carella of the Qatar Team, as he won from pole position and took a 4.55 second victory over the other Abu Dhabi driver Thani Al Qamzi. His fellow Qatar teammate Jay Price charged from the back of the starting grid to finish a remarkable third for a 1-3 team finish.
The qualifying day belonged to Carella, driving his DAC hull to a 44.63 second lap around the two kilometer six pin course on Nizny Kaban Lake, beating out his new teammate of 2012 Shaun Torrente of Miami, Florida who was second with a 44.88 time while driving for Team Sweden.
Carella, who went on to become the sports youngest World Champion at 27 years-old, comes into Kazan currently fifth in the championship to Torrente's fourth after one round in 2012.
French driver Philippe Chiappe, driving for the CTIC China Team and who is sitting second in the championship thus far with 15 points after Doha, was fifth here a year ago after starting seventh. The likeable driver from Rouen raced at his hometown's famous 24 Hours of Rouen event recently taking second in class overall. His first ever podium came in St. Petersburg back in 2009 when he finished third behind race winner Jay Price and Ahmed Al Hameli.
Kazan, Russia's eighth largest city with a population of over 1.1 million, and a history of over one thousand years old, will be hosting a UIM F1 H2O Grand Prix on Nizny Kaban Lake for the second straight year earmarked by the special appearance of President Rustam Minnikhanov for the Grand Prix on Saturday the 23rd of June.
The one hour Qualifying Session for starting grid positions and the pole will take place on Friday, June 22nd at 18:00 local and 14:00 GMT and last one hour followed by the official Press Conference.
The Grand Prix of the Republic of Tatarstan is scheduled to take place at 17:00 local and 13:00 GMT followed immediately by the podium Awards Ceremony and the official Press Conference. UIM F1 H2O Powerboat World Championship website