LONDON: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi secured his fourth UIM F2 World Championship title on Sunday with a perfect tactical drive, as Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko recorded victory at the Grand Prix of Portugal.
A second-placed finish for the Emirati driver in the penultimate round of the 2023 championship, following his grand prix victories in Lithuania and Italy, was enough to add to his previous F2 triumphs in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Adding to the celebrations for Team Abu Dhabi at Peso da Regua in northern Portugal, Al-Qemzi’s teammate Mansoor Al-Mansoori joined him on the podium with a superb drive to third place after starting fifth.
After seeing pole position snatched away from him by Riabko 24 hours earlier, Al-Qemzi was narrowly held off by the Lithuanian as they battled from the start to gain the advantage at the first turn on the Douro River circuit.
From that point onwards, Al-Qemzi settled into his rhythm, content to hold second place with his two closest rivals, Monaco’s Giacomo Sacchi and Estonian Stefan Arand, well in arrears.
Playing an important role on the day, Al-Mansoori climbed two places over the first four laps to take control of third place, offering his teammate protection in the event of any threat from behind.
It failed to materialize, however, with Sacchi making a premature exit through mechanical problems, while Arand was forced to settle for fifth place.
Celebrating at the finish with Al-Mansoori and the rest of the Team Abu Dhabi lineup, Al-Qemzi will now target a third victory of the season in the season’s final grand prix, on the Tagus River in Vila Velha de Rodao next Sunday.
It was there two years ago that he recorded a second grand prix victory in the space of eight days to wrap up his third F2 world title.
Al-Qemzi had arrived in Portugal full of confidence, holding a 16-point championship lead over Sacchi. His only worrying moment came in Saturday’s free practice session when he flipped and damaged his boat.
It was repaired in rapid time by the Team Abu Dhabi technicians, allowing Al-Qemzi to qualify in a comfortable second place, on his way to joining Sweden’s Erik Stark in the record books as a four-time F2 world champion.
It also means that Guido Cappellini has delivered 17 world championship titles to the UAE capital since he took charge as Team Abu Dhabi manager eight years ago.