Veteran Roggiero Switches To Qatar Team!!
LAUSANNE, Switzerland – 5th of May, 2006 – The continued growth and popularity that the U.I.M. F1 World Championship series offers as the pinnacle of the sport of powerboat racing around the world, is once again being played out, as rumors have two of the best F2 drivers are stepping up and joining the 2006 campaign when the series heads for the lovely city of Portimao and the 8th Annual Grand Prix of Portugal on the weekend of the 27th and 28th of May on the Algarve coast.
A full field of 26 drivers from 11 different nations is expected for the race on the historic harbor setting which has been won 6 times by Italian Guido Cappellini of the Tamoil Team. Cappellini, who is coming off a less than stellar performance at the season’s opening round last month at the Grand Prix of Qatar, is hoping to change his luck after dropping out of the event when his engine exploded on the front straightaway and thus failing to pick up any points. Meanwhile, his new teammate and upcoming Italian youngster Ivan Brigada has joined the team in a big way winning from pole position and leads the championship with 20 points earned in his victory in Doha.
As Brigada is somewhat of a known driver on the F1 tour after having taken four starts, his fellow F2 drivers are hoping to make the same impact as much heralded Swedish driver Jonas Andersson is speculated to be coming for the first of his European appearances this season. The 32 year-old Swede, who out dueled Brigada during the winter series for the Presidents Cup in the Middle East, is a two time F2 World Champion. In fact, he has not officially signed up yet for the Grand Prix of Portugal, has been rumored to have been out testing his boat and is deciding whether he will be making his first chance in U.I.M. F1 competition. Only time will tell how he adapts his driving style from 220+ horsepower engines in F2 to the 400+ horsepower power plants of F1.
Another Swedish driver with a history in F1 is Pierre Lundin who last ran at the Grand Prix of Portugal in 2004. His career best finish when racing with the Rainbow Team was a 5th at the 2002 Grand Prix of Germany. He, like Andersson, is also currently looking for a ride in the European rounds of the 2006 campaign.
A fellow F2 competitor who is expected to join the F1 tour in Portugal is longtime veteran driver Jay Price of the Qatar Team as the American returns to F1 after racing in a few events run back in 2002 when he ran in the pair of races in the Emirates picking up a career best 9th in Abu Dhabi. His full time effort will mark the first time in awhile that the 20+ year veteran of the sport has battled in this class after having done so back in the early 1990’s in North America.
Joining the Cajun from Louisiana as his new teammate on the Qatar team will probably be Italian Massimo Roggiero. This long time racer, now successful builder of the BABA boats, is expected to pilot his own craft as he replaces Mohamed Al Ali who was injured in his hometown race in Doha last month. Massimo is a multiple time winner on the tour and will help steer this new team to instant success for the remainder of the 2006 campaign.
The French Charente Maritime Team is adding a third driver to their line-up in Chinese pilot Peng Lin Wu who has raced before in F1 and most recently was a partner with the Jonathan Jones entry of the John Player Gold Leaf Team back in the late 1990’s. Lin Wu has raced 350cc boats long before stepping up into F1 and had has a lot of testing in the past in England as he readies himself for a first full time effort in the sport. The guidance of veteran Philippe Dessertenne should help him as he adjusts to the speed of the sport having not raced in F1 in the past few seasons.
In other news, Saudi driver Laith Pharaon of Team Green is expected to go back to his familiar DAC hull after qualifying 5th and finishing a disappointing 10th at the opening round in the newly acquired BABA hull. Since he has raced many seasons with the other hull this seems to be a better fit for Laith for the remainder of the season.
The burning question in Portimao will once again be if Cappellini can come back and re-establish his dominance on the Arade River. He had won every race and led every lap the first five years of the event until American Scott Gillman beat him in 2004.
Many people have said the 2002 race was a spectacular event when Laith Pharaon and Italian Francesco Cantando of the Singha Team took each other out of the race in a rare double blow over for the lead at the start of the event. However, last years race may have been the most memorable in the history of the Grand Prix of Portugal. Cappellini led from the pole only to see Gillman take away Cappellini’s lead with just 10 laps to go. However, with two pins to go on the last lap in the final 10 seconds of the event Cappellini re-passed a slowing Gillman making this race the most spectacular and nail biting event of the 2005 season. We can only hope to expect more of the same this time around on the weekend of the 27th and 28th of May. We’ll see you there!