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A Sharjah Surprise.

Chris Davies on 18th November 2021

With just a week to go before the teams competing for the 2021 UIM F1H2O World Championship take to the water at the famous summer resort of Figueira da Foz in Portugal, the Sharjah Team are putting their drivers through some last-minute testing prior to the hectic weekend of back-to-back Grand Prix.

Lead driver Sami Selio, who last time out at the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Europe, finished on the podium after putting in a robust performance around the tight San Nazzaro course is confident that it’s all systems go, ‘We are ready to race anywhere’ he said. ‘But the fact that these two Grand Prix are being held in Portugal is even better for us because the team is based here. Sure, two races over four days still presents a huge challenge because we know there will always be surprises along the way.’

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that they have decided to run a third driver in Portugal and making his UIM F1H2O debut will be Ferdinand Zandbergen. The twenty-six-year Dutch driver actually made his race debut for the Sharjah Team just some ninety miles north in Porto back in 2015, when he raced for them in the F4-S Trophy class. ‘All I can remember about that weekend was how nervous I was before the race because F4-S was a lot different to the GT-30 that I raced in back Holland.’

Since then Zandbergen has gone from strength to strength, with victory in the F4-S Trophy in Dubai the following season followed by moving to the UIM F2 World Championship in 2017. Throughout his journey Selio has been impressed with the way he has quickly got to grips with the different classes. ‘I have trained a lot of drivers in the past’ said Selio, ‘and most of them have come from some form of powerboat background, Zandbergen was different, he’s the first in his family to race motor sport and I’m really please at how he has developed not only as a person but also a racer.’

Before making their way north to Figueira da Foz Zandbergen will have an opportunity to get acquainted with the F1 BaBa hull at a venue he is familiar with when the Sharjah Team test at  Vila Velha de Ródão. Just last month he rounded off his UIM F2 2021 World Championship by taking third place there and Selio thinks it should prove very useful for Zandbergen as he already knows the water conditions and can concentrate on the different power range produced by an F1 engine. ‘Everything is more sensitive in an F1 boat plus everything happens a lot quicker than an F2’ he said.

As for his own thoughts on the up coming Grand Prix of Portugal Selio is happy with the way the Sharjah Team has gelled together this year. ‘Since Claudio Borra has joined on a full-time basis we now have one of the best mechanics in boat racing’ commented Selio. ‘You could say he is the father of my BaBa hull. His input has made a positive difference throughout, and I trust him one hundred per cent.’

Selio now hopes that another piece of the teams ‘jigsaw puzzle’ can be put in place and finally rid the bad luck that has blighted Filip Roms season. The driver from Espoo in Finland has not scored a point since the Sharjah GP back in 2019 and Selio is concerned about his compatriot. ‘We make the same effort with his boat, but his luck has been worse than mine. I really hope that finally he has a trouble-free weekend.’

Selio is also delighted that the 2021 UIM F1H2O World Championship will have three and not how he feared just one round. ‘I feel to keep some credibility in the sport you must have a minimum of at least three Grand Prix’ he said, ‘and I hope this race weekend will keep F1H2O alive.’

Soon, all eyes will be watching from the banks of the Rio Mondego to see just how the first Dutch driver to race F1 in nearly three decades gets on and whether he can follow in the footsteps of his mentor and secure the ‘Rookie’ of the season in his debut year just like Selio did back in 1998.

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