ABU DHABI - (Monday, November 12 2012) - It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the "Abu Dhabi experiment" became reality back in 1993.
However, when historians look back on the first UIM F1 H2O World Championship event outside it's more familiar European, North American and Far East surroundings, the new world region of power boating in the Middle East will prove to be a turning point in making this a truly successful and worldwide sport with the addition of the Emirates to the yearly schedule.
By placing the race site within shouting distance of the beautiful backdrop of the futuristic city of Abu Dhabi, it opened the door in continuing a tradition of racing on waters that were right at the edge of the city center.
This was the key ingredient in the founders plans when establishing and developing race sites such as Paris, Amsterdam, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh decades before by putting race fans right in the thick of the action in the center of the city.
The face of Abu Dhabi has changed drastically since that first event back in 1993. So have the drivers that now make up the F1 H2O line-up. Twenty years on and not one pilot in that opening line-up 20 years ago is racing today.
Italian Francesco Cantando is the longest running active driver in this years line-up who has 16 career starts along the corniche. He arrived here in 1996 as student, just out of law school and now is a veteran that young drivers look up to. The Singha F1 Team pilot is the winningest active driver on the tour with 12 career victories including back to back wins here in 2000 and 2001.
Seven different drivers have multiple victories in Abu Dhabi over their careers. Leading the list is 10-time World Champion Guido Cappellini of Como, Italy who won the inaugural event in the spring of 1993. Guido, would go on to win five events and reach the podium nine times in his 17 career starts along the Gulf.
Guido, was one of three Italian drivers taking the top step on the podium, along with Cantando and this past years defending World Champion Alex Carella of the Qatar Team. Alex leads the championship coming into the November 30th event with 59 points and a nine point cushion ahead of Abu Dhabi native Ahmed Al Hameli of Team Abu Dhabi who is out for the season because of illness.
Italian drivers have had more wins than any other nationality with nine, just ahead of American drivers Felix Serralles, Scott Gillman and Jay Price who have six. Serralles, who is from the island of Puerto Rico, was actually the first multi-time winner in Abu Dhabi, capturing back to back race titles in 1993 and 1994.
Gillman, a four-time World Champion from Los Angeles, California, won here during his rookie season in 1997 on his way to his first title. TheTeam Racing Manager for the Abu Dhabi organization, later becoming a two time winner when driving for Team Abu Dhabi in 2005.
New Orleans driver Jay Price won here in 2008. The victory officially awarded him his World Championship with a dominating victory doing the same again a year later winning in 2009 having reached the podium five times in just seven races.
Other drivers, representing various other nations in Europe in the victory halls, are firstly two time winner and World Champion Sami Selio of the Mad Croc Team. His dramatic "must win" event for the Finnish star in 2007 will long be remembered, with Sami winning again in 2010.
Two time F1 H2O World Champion Jonathan Jones from Wales captured the rough weather 1995 race and again three years later taking his final World Title with a victory in 1998 event.
Oddly enough, drivers from the Middle East region haven't done particularly well in Abu Dhabi other than Saudi Arabian driver Laith Pharaon who won back to back events in 2002 and 2003. The driver who most recently makes his home in Miami, Florida seemed to enjoy racing in front of family and friends every time he came to Abu Dhabi.
Surprisingly, no driver from the Emirates has ever won at this, one of two of their home Grand Prix's on the calendar each season with the other race being in Sharjah two hours up the road just outside of Dubai.
The 21st Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi will take place along the corniche in a new position this season and a new circuit laid out as well on the 29th and 30th of November.
The continual growth and expanse that has been put forward by the government in the area around the Marina Mall complex has made this a truly a wonderful site for a Grand Prix.
The new venue shows the commitment that the UIM F1 H2O World Championship for power boating and its host the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) are putting forward to continually grow this sport well into its third decade along the Gulf.
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