Friday, April 28:Team Abu Dhabi’s talented rookie Rashed Al Qemzi rocked the establishment by setting the fastest lap of 45.74sec in Friday afternoon’s two-hour extra free practice session for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Zhengzhou, China.
The three-time UIM F2 World Champion is standing in for the experienced Thani Al-Qamzi on the Yellow River and ran his DAC for 34 laps, his best time eclipsing the run of 45.87sec set by second-placed Jonas Andersson of Team Sweden. Al Qemzi’s team-mate is the defending World Champion Shaun Torrente and the American stopped the clocks with the third quickest lap of 46.11sec.
All 20 racers were able to at least run a few laps on the challenging new Yellow River course during the session
As the session reached the half-hour mark, the Sharjah Team’s Sami Seliö topped the standings with a best lap of 47.18sec, but that was before Marit Strømøy and Al Qemzi took to the water in earnest, with the Norwegian hitting the front with a best of 47.16sec and Al-Qamzi stopping the clocks just one-tenth of a second behind.
After running for just four laps, Seliö, who is making his 26th start in China this weekend and who has four victories and 10 podium finishes, said: “For sure, we are going to try. It was so close in Indonesia. I think I was the fastest there. We keep trying. It’s tough and the race course is very challenging. Today, the wind changes all the time.
With the session reaching the last half an hour, Torrente had climbed to the top of the rankings with a best run of 46.11sec. Al-Qamzi had also improved markedly and held second place with a 46.61sec tour. The team’s newcomer then ran even faster and delivered a staggering run of 45.74sec to hit the top, 0.367 seconds quicker than Torrente.
Andersson had his boat dialled in nicely towards the end of the session and the Team Sweden racer moved up to second in the standings with a lap of 45.87sec. There were also strong starts for fifth-placed Peter Morin and championship leader Bartek Marszalek in sixth.
The Victory Team’s Ahmad Al-Fahim stopped the session after an accident forced the yellow flag to be raised. The Emirati said: “I was trying different things and I was feeling very good with the boat. The only thing was the straight line because of the head wind. We changed the prop and, you know when you are changing the prop, the attitude of the boat changes. In a straight line, suddenly, I just flipped the boat, flying and I was looking at the air and the water and the air and landed safely. Unfortunately, I had to stop today and come back tomorrow stronger”.
Brent Dillard completed the first session on the water in eighth. The China CTIC Team man said: “Turn one and turn two were rough. Luckily, I had a team-mate Peter who was able to go out there and give me advice. I was trimming the boat a little bit too much. That’s a learning experience. I want to be the best. I want to run with Peter and Shaun and Sami and the best”.
The F1 Atlantic Team’s Duarte Benavente finished the session in 13th. He added: “It was quite windy into turn number one and number two. The course is nice and fun. Today’s extra free practice done. Let’s wait for tomorrow”.