Lavish Line up for Lithuanian Grand Prix

It might have been a while since those competing for the UIM F2 World Championship title lined up on the start jetty but very soon the wait will be over as twenty three of the world best F2 powerboat drivers head to Kaunas in Lithuania for the opening round of the 2017 season.

Missing from the entry list will be twice World Champion Pierre Lundin. Earlier this year negotiations were well under way for the Swede to run a new F2 Team in Victory colours but the UAE based outfit opted to put their funding into a different project. “Too bad” said Lundin, “it could have been fun for both them and us.”

Over the last six years we have seen a Swedish name engraved on the UIM F2 World Championship winner’s trophy and hoping to continue that run of form will be last season’s runner-up Erik Edin. “Lundin or not I don’t feel any different” he said. “Of course we will always welcome him back to race if he wants to because I know I can beat him.”

During the ‘winter’ break Edin has rebuilt his McDonalds liveried Molgaard hull and testing has seen a marked improvement on its acceleration from a standing start; a vital ingredient these days for anyone seeking race victories. “Last year was good for us but far from perfect” continued Edin. “I’ve come up with some fresh ideas and the team are very satisfied with the results we have seen. Everyone in the team knows that we need to go one place better as we hunt for the world title.”

With this in mind who does he now think will push him the most? “It’s easy to look at the entry list and see where the threat will come from because I have raced these guys before. I know that Temper can be quick, Palfreyman will battle hard and Slakteris will be full of confidence after his success in Germany. If I’m honest my biggest rival this year though will be myself. If I cut out the mistakes the title is mine.”

Looking for a podium place at literally his ‘home town’ Grand Prix will be Edgaras Riabko. It’s going to be an extremely busy weekend for the driver now in his fourth season of racing F2. When he’s not strapped into his DAC hull he will be introducing his many VIP guests, including the cities Major Visvaldas Matijošaitis and officials from various Lithuanian sports governing bodies to those competing. “Five years ago if you had told me that I would be welcoming powerboat racing World Champions like Michael Werner, Guido Cappellini, Sami Selio, Alex Carella and Philippe Chiappe to my home town I would have said you were dreaming” said Riabko, “So I am very satisfied to see them in Kaunas.”

Riabko is also very confident on attracting up to 10,000 spectators over the race weekend. “We’ve spent a lot of money promoting this Grand Prix on TV and radio. We have made sure that everyone knows about this event, we have even advertised it on all the city busses.”

With so many VIP’s attending what is one of the biggest sporting highlights on the Lithuanian calendar, Riabko has arranged for both Gordon Cook Racing and Martins Bergholcs from Latvia to provide two seater experiences so the guests can get a feel of what the drivers are going through around the five pin course.

The actual 1660 metre race course will be laid out on the Kaunas Reservoir, which at 63.5 square kilometres, is the largest artificial lake in Lithuania. With all this extra space now available Riabko and his race organisation have built a bigger paddock than the one they had in Zarasai .This should comfortably accommodate the race teams along with all the official areas including time keeping, drivers briefing and the VIP hospitality.

As for the driver, has he had chance to catch his breath? “Being my home town I have many friends and workers who will help to make this a great event” said Riabko, “so we should be ready with out any stress. With both F2 and FR1000 racing throughout the weekend, including the F2 Speed Record and Match Race on Saturday evening, the time table is very busy, I just hope the weather gods are on my side.”

With everything being taken care of shore-side, how has his race preparation been going? “It’s been eight months now since we raced in Portugal, so competing at Rouen and in Germany laid perfect foundation on what I hope will be my best season yet. I know that the World Championship will be a tougher test than the one we faced in Brodenbach but it still proved very useful as we reduced the boats weight by 20 Kg’s and even I have lost 6 Kg’s. So now I have competitive hull and experience from the last few seasons, so my target this weekend is the podium and nothing lower.”

Racing gets under way on Saturday 10 June with the F2 Free Practice at 10:15. F2 Qualifying starts at 14:30 and that’s followed by the F2 Speed Record and Match Race at 17:00.