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So that was 2020 – UIM F2 World Championship

Probably the biggest surprise this year was that any racing was done at all.
However, some organisers and racers were not going to let a global pandemic get in the way of some boat racing, and for a few brief weeks in August and September, everything seemed normal again.

The UIM F2 World Championship was held over three rounds in two countries and the season started on September 19 in Kaunus, Lithuania.

Benavente benefits from mistakes at the front

Lithuania podium. Duarte Benavente, Edgaras Riabko and Uvis Slakteris

Just to prove that 2020 wasn’t any other year, Sweden’s Bimba Sjöholm became the first lady driver to ever take a UIM F2 World Championship pole position.

The next day, Portugal’s Duarte Benavente benefited from mistakes at the front and won the first round.

Sjöholm relinquished her pole to Colin Jelf at the start and the veteran British driver pulled out a lead, however, the three-time UIM F2 world champion dislodged a buoy and was given a one lap penalty, effectively ending his challenge.

The Swede then dramatically crashed out of the race in the lead during the 32nd lap.

Organiser of the event, Edgaras Riabko, was second and he was thrilled to take the precious 15 points to Portugal where two more races in Vila Velha de Ródão would conclude the championship.

Gusty Vila Velha de Ródão

Round 2 winner in Vila Velha de Ródão, Owen Jelf Photo: Chris Davies

Just eleven days later in Vila Velha de Ródão, Owen Jelf grabbed a sensational pole and won the second round with a lights to flag drive a few hours later.

Gusty conditions would play havoc with the two race event, initially forcing qualifying for round 2 to be postponed to the race day after Sjöholm dramatically crashed out of the original shoot-out.

Owen’s brother, Colin, was blown off the track by a rogue gust that also took my television monitor with it.

Benavente narrowly escaped disaster when the same gust nearly took him out of contention, he finished runner-up and extended his series lead while Riabko was third.

Portugal’s World Champion

2020 UIM F2 World Champion, Duarte Benavente Photo: Chris Davies

Benavente won the 2020 UIM F2 World Championship in in convincing style.

He won the third round from pole position and looked absolutely dominant in his Mercury powered Moore hull.

Riabko finished 26.609 seconds behind him and the 15 points for second place were good enough for the Lithuanian to take the UIM Silver Medal.

In third was Owen Jelf. He was relentlessly pursued by Sami Seliö throughout the race and the British and Finnish drivers even had a coming together in the final stages.

Jelf soaked up the massive pressure and in the process claimed a UIM Bronze Medal.

A memorable year

The class of 2020 Photo: Chris Davies

This is the season I will never forget because it beat all the odds and took place when many other disciplines in the sport couldn’t run a championship.

The presidents of the Lithuania and Portugal powerboat federations, Edgaras Riabko and Paulo Ferreira, completed the onerous work to ensure that their events took place under extraordinary conditions.

UIM Race Director, Pelle Larsson, worked closely with the organisers in Lithuania and Portugal and oversaw the racing, while Elek Kozma  and his team of fit and strong chaps looked after the drivers at the incident packed events.

Above all, it was great to watch such a competitive championship and witness one of the sports nice guys claim a deserved world title.

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