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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 27 February 2021

What is it like: to be a Formula 1 powerboat driver

Thani al Qamz, Team Abu Dhabi's lead driver in the F1 World Powerboat Championship, recounts his career and experience

Moving up to race a Formula 1 powerboat did not feel too different because I had been driving the wooden powerboats and the Formula 2 machines. And before that, I was riding aqua bikes. But the first time I raced in the world championship, towards the end of the 2000 championship in Sharjah, was a good experience. It was the last two races in the season and I got the opportunity to compete as a wild-card.

I completed only four laps on my debut as the boat engine packed in. However, I finished seventh in Abu Dhabi two weeks later - winning four world championship points. Those two races gave me a start and I was a regular in the championship from 2001. I was excited to race with the elite. I was not nervous but wanted to make a good impression in my first race to become a regular in the world circuit.

I thought this was my chance to prove myself, and powerboat racing is about speed and not for the weak. To get into the F1 circuit and race for the world title was always my goal after winning the F2 championship. As a child, I used to watch the sleek boats during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the breakwater. I always wanted to be a part of it, but to get there I knew it would take time. So I got into aqua bikes and gradually moved to the boats.

I like speed and as a child I used to race quad bikes with my friends in the desert. I then spent a lot of time at the beaches and was drawn into aqua bikes. I did pretty well in the aqua bikes and became well known in the circuit. I wanted to do well to achieve higher goals in my life and it eventually led me to the next level to race in the wooden powerboats. Since then, it has been a smooth path to fulfill my childhood dream.

I finished third in the world championship twice, in 2006 and 2007, and feel I have a great chance to become the first Emirati or Arab driver to win the world title. If I do, I would have achieved my dream. Thani al Qamzi is Team Abu Dhabi's lead driver in the F1 World Powerboat Championship. He is racing along the Corniche today in the second race of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at 3.30pm, and racing in Sharjah next Friday and Saturday.

Published: December 5, 2009 04:00 AM