All photos by Chantelle D’mello
For those looking to close out the weekend with a splash, Qatar’s Corniche will be the site of much cheer and activity this afternoon, as Formula 1 Powerboat racing teams gear up for the opening round of the 2015 UIM F1 H20 World Championship, the highest class of inshore powerboat racing.
The event, which encompasses eight races in some five countries over the course of the year, is to watersport what Formula 1 is to auto racing.
Inaugurated in 1980, this year’s edition will see teams from China, Abu Dhabi, France, Qatar and several other countries compete for the world title in 18 ft-long, 500-kg plus lightweight boats made from carbon and Kevlar.
According to F1H2O’s website, powerboats can go even faster than F1 cars, and accelerate from zero to 160km in a mere four seconds.
Races are held at selected locations around the world, chosen for their water conditions, infrastructure, public access and other facilities.
At each venue, there are two Grand Prix races – one on each day – and several qualifying rounds. Each race lasts for 30 minutes of racing time and two laps, with up to 24 boats hurtling around the race circuit at speeds of some 225 km/hr.
Though windy conditions yesterday halted some of the race’s qualifying sessions, the event seems to be on schedule today, with the F1 Grand Prix race to be held at 3:45pm, and a concurrent Formula 4 race at 2pm.
Speaking to Doha News, Mohammed Al Obaidly, a 28-year-old rider, and one of three Qataris on the local team, said that competitions like these offered rookie “F4” drivers the opportunity to hone their skills and gain experience needed to move up classes.
“Formula 4 is a lower-division class of racing using smaller, less powerful boats. It takes almost 10 years for riders like me to move up to Formula 1. Currently there are only two Qatari riders and one Qatari assistant.
The rest of our team is made up mostly of Americans and Italians, because they have the most experience with the sport. We brought them in to help grow power boat racing in Qatar and to develop a local team. InshAllah in a few years you will see a team that is entirely Qatari,” he said.
American Shaun Torrente, the team’s other rider, has so far led Qatar to first place in the qualifying rounds, registering the fastest completion time on the 1.76 km-long course.
Qatar has routinely ranked well in F1H2O competitions, bagging the title in 2008, and then for three consecutive years from 2011-2013.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will also be broadcast live today on Al Kass TV.
After Qatar, teams will move to France where the next leg of the championship is slated to be held on June 7.
Do you plan to check out the races? Thoughts?