2016 UIM F2 World Championship Preview
It’s just three weeks to go before the start of the 2016 UIM F2 World Championship.
Milla Sohlström and her team are quietly confident that they have everything in place as they welcome twenty six drivers to Lake Peurunkajarvi and the start of what some people are saying will be one of the most competitive F2 seasons yet.
Ahead of the teams lay seven very different Grand Prix venues. From the choppy waters of Lake Lugano, it’s onto the picturesque fjord of Oksefjorden followed by the tight confines of Tonsberg in Norway. Then it’s a chance to stretch their legs down the long straights of Zarasai in Lithuania before sampling the delights of Macon in the Burgundy region of France. Ribadouro in Portugal will then play host to the season’s finale in October.
Before the teams embark on their five month ‘road-tour’ they are heading to the most northerly race venue ever to stage a round of the UIM F2 World Championship, in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Located in central Finland, Peurunka and its surrounding area is one of the most important tourist destinations in the country. The Finnish Grand Prix will based at one of the largest privately-owned hotels in the region but as Managing Director Seppo Virta explains Peurunka is not just buildings, it’s also a tourism area which boasts the Spa Hotel as well as conference facilities, an ice arena, golf course, several saunas, beauty and health businesses. “Our goal is to remain a nationally important tourist destination well into the future. We want to be at the forefront of wellness and fitness, in both individuals and organisations” said Virta.
Due to the beautiful natural setting and pristine environment, it hasn’t been easy to stage a race there. “When we started to plan the event some people accused us of potentially destroying the birdlife” said Milla Sohlström. After making several appeals and many statements at the Finnish High Court, Sohlström, a former Scandinavian F2 Championship racer won her case. “Once we had cleared this hurdle the cooperation we then received from the authorities in Laukaa City and other local authorities have been very professional and helpful for us, so much so that they are all keen for us to stage future race events here. The environment is a very important issue and we will have measures in place to make sure that we do not cause any damage to it while holding the event.”
It’s not just on the water that Sohlström and her team have been concentrating as they are expecting 15,000 visitors over the three day period. “We have been focusing on what families can to do throughout the entire weekend, so not only will there be paragliding and flyboard shows, we have also organised an action where a very famous salesman from the Finnish TV programme called “Auction.” Caesar/Huutokauppakeisari will host the sales which are open to the visitors and race teams.”
The evening entertainment has also been taken care of with the critically acclaimed Finnish singer and guitarist, Juha Tapio, headlining along with the Osmo’s Cosmos Band, who are known for their colourful stage show.
“We have the most brilliant stars on water and the stage” said Sohlström, “a lot to do and see for the visitors”.
One of those stars hoping to put in a good performance will be the local hero, Sami Selio. The BaBa Racing driver will be using the hull that was last raced by Wynand De Jager. Selio said that he wants to spend a weekend where he can just focus on racing. “I have been extremely unlucky lately in F1, so it would be nice to have one weekend without problems and just focus on driving. There is no pressure here but of course it would be nice to do well in the front of the Finnish motorsport fans.”
Amongst those lining up alongside him on the start grid will be some familiar faces, including the Team Abu Dhabi driver, Alex Carella. “For sure the biggest threat will come from the likes of Carella and Lundin” said Selio. “They were the fastest guys last year but I think there are a lot of drivers who have upgraded their race equipment and also done their homework over the winter. There are for sure a lot fast drivers and to be on the top you need to get everything right and also be lucky. I have heard that there will be twenty six boats entered and only twenty can go to the race… so let’s hope that I’m one of those twenty that make the grade.”
For Carella and Team Abu Dhabi the weekend will consist of more than just the Grand Prix as they are going to test a new DAC which will be used by Stanislav Kourtsenovsky this season. They are also carrying out tests on some new material that will be used to construct the team’s boats that they will use later in the championship. “Yes, the weekend will be like a test session for us but at the same time we are racing” said Carella “and for sure we will be going for the win. There are a lot of competitive drivers out there and it will be a really interesting race weekend for me. Last year in Campione I held back because I didn’t want to upset the championship table, this time will be different as I’m looking to get to that top step.”
Another driver with an eye on the prize will be last season’s championship sensation, Matt Palfreyman. “I’m ready” said the British racer. “The pre-season has gone well and I’m all set to take the next step on the podium, after all my team deserve a win from me said the man with a hundred percent podium finish. One area he knows that he can improve on is his performance in qualifying. “Looking at where I start from on the grid at every race you would think that I like to make hard work of it. If I am to score my first F2 world championship victory I need to be starting higher up the grid especially as the Mercury OptiMax engines are so evenly matched and overtaking can be very tricky around some of the circuits we are racing at this year.”
This year with over twice the number of Grand Prix, will we see Lundin take a more tactical approach to the season and not risk going for race victories as he tries to defend his World Championship title? What has the quiet man from Sweden got in store for us? One thing is for certain is that the first race in Finland is sure to be an interesting spectacle and perhaps will give us more of an idea as to the likely 2016 UIM F2 Championship winner.
Chris Davies ARPS, has been photographing and writing about powerboat racing since 1987.