It had been almost eight weeks since the F2 teams had loaded their containers in Goteborg, Budapest, Milan and Riga for the trip to the Free State in South Africa and now with a mix of eagerness and nervous anticipation they couldn’t wait to test the water.
Of all the eighteen competitors who had signed on, the driver, who was actually in touching distance of winning his third world championship title, was showing the most nerves. “Yes, I’m a little bit stressed out” admitted Erik Stark. “The way the timetable has been changed means that if we have a problem in the time trials and can’t fix it then we have the most to lose.”
It’s probably been hard not to notice that the entire world’s attention has been focused on South Africa over the last few days, as mourners and ninety-one world leaders gathered in the FNB Stadium to unite in tribute to a man who became a global symbol of reconciliation, in one of the biggest send-offs in history.
Just one hour’s drive south of the South African flagship sports venue, that hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup final, lies the industrial town of Sasolburg, where this weekend the 2013 UIM F2 World Champion will be crowned.
It’s a cold damp Sunday evening in Milan, Italy. The powerboat racing world should have been celebrating the fact that Sweden’s Erik Stark had just won his second F2 European Championship title. Instead the hugs exchanged in the race pits were for Paolo Zantelli’s family after the Italian driver was tragically killed in the fourth and final heat that day.
The racing accident took place just metres from the start pontoon. As the remaining ten drivers headed for the first turn Zantelli’s Clerici hull took off and landed on its side in a violent impact. The rescue teams were on the scene in seconds and extracted Zantelli who was now in an unconscious condition. An air ambulance was quickly summoned but it was decided by the Doctors treating him that he should be rushed to the local hospital via an ambulance. He later past away from his injuries sustained in the crash.
With sixteen entries all vying to become the 2013 F2 European Champion this weekend at the Idroscalo in Milan, the driver who can adapt quickest to the challenge of four heats of fifteen lap sprint racing will be a worthy winner of the UIM title.
Setting the standard straight away was the local hero Paolo Zantelli after he claimed pole position on this tricky four pin course. Finding the mix of top end speed and fast acceleration wasn’t going to be easy but the experienced Italian knew his Clerici hull would be well suited to the long straights, a feat he demonstrated recently when he won the British Grand Prix on a similar race circuit.