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HIGH STAKES AT FIGUEIRA da FOZ

As the saying goes, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once. Is this true though? My own anecdotal evidence would suggest yes, and this theory seems to be backed up by not one but two Grand Prix of Portugal being held in the space of forty-eight hours.

Whilst I’m certainly not complaining, because I can see the need for a ‘sensible’ conclusion to the 2021 F1H2O season, I’m sure that privately there will be a few teams and mechanics faced with a very late night in the pits on Friday who will probably have some choice words on the subject of back-to-back races.

Preparation will be paramount for a weekend the likes of which we haven’t witnessed since the season of double-headers back in 2009. Such was the intensity back then that even the likes of Guido Cappellini retired from both races held in Portimão that year. He will certainly be hoping for some better fortune when Team Abu Dhabi arrive in the Figueira da Foz pit area on the banks of the Rio Mondego.

UIM F1H2O World Championship-San Nazzaro (Italy) GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE September 10-12, 2021-Race-Photo: Vittorio Ubertone-Editorial use only

Back in September, when he left the San Nazzaro pits Cappellini had two drivers happily clutching their trophies, although from all accounts their top two finish at UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Europe was far from straight forward. Worried about the quality of the race fuel, the team had opted to run their Mercury engines richer than normal and when the lights went out the defending World Champion Shaun Torrente did not have the best of starts.

Meanwhile his team mate Thani Al Qemzi had slotted in behind the pole sitter Alberto Comparato but all that changed when the young Italian stopped after fifteen laps handing the lead to Al Qemzi. When a second yellow flag was raised on lap thirty-six due to Sweden’s Jonas Andersson stopping in the middle of the circuit, Torrente pulled alongside Sami Seliö and managed to get by him when the green flag came out.

‘I felt like I was going to catch him either way, but the restart helped a lot’ said Torrente.

With half the field now back in the pits all the leading trio needed to do was endure all that the Po River had on offer till they saw the chequered flag on the fiftieth lap. After the race Seliö was pleased to be back on the podium saying, ‘we are now back where we should be.’

Now, according to popular folklore Figueira da Foz gets its name from a fig tree, which stood at the quay of Salmanha where the local fishermen used to tie up their boats. One driver that the locals will be hoping to see tie up his Moore boat in the winners enclosure will be Duarte Benavente. Being one of the most experienced racers in the championship Benavente is well used to the public scrutiny he receives from the partisan crowd.

Sat in a recent Press conference held at Quinta das Olaias with the President of CMFF Pedro Santana Lopes, the President of the Portuguese Power Boat Federation Paulo Ferreira, and the President of CNAFF Miguel Amaral, Benavente was asked about the pressure of being the ‘local hero’ racing at his home grand prix, he replied ‘none. Being in Portugal is fun because I love racing with my sponsors watching on and having some of my family members here.’ Meanwhile Ferreira announced that he had negotiated a two-year contract to hold the Grand Prix in Figueira da Foz.

He went onto say that after successfully hosting two rounds of the UIM F2 World Championship recently, it was clear that they have everything in place to host the F1H2O World Championship finale and that it proved that Portugal had become the capital of UIM circuit powerboat racing.

Amongst the many reasons the Portuguese flock to this city of tourism on the Atlantic Ocean coast is the fact that you can find one of the biggest casinos on the Iberian Peninsula located there. So, it’s win or lose time, just how high are those stakes going to be out on the race course? Let’s just hope we don’t get too many high rollers effecting the weekends outcome.

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