Starting from the back of the grid would be the reigning World Champion Shaun Torrente following an engine replacement. The American driver had set a good early time in Q2, but by then he had already felt a worrying vibration in the boat.
After stopping to have this checked for a possible propeller problem he set of again, only for the engine to blow moments later.
It’s the first failure I’ve had in three years,’ said Torrente as the Team Abu Dhabi mechanics went about fitting a new Mercury engine. ‘It’s not over yet – all I have to do is pass fourteen boats.
As the race got under way Jonas Andersson once again put the calm water to effective use as he sped away from the pole position. Sami Selio, who had started alongside Andersson now found himself side by side with his fellow countryman Alec Weckstrom of the Gillman Racing team.
The young Finnish driver had earlier earned his first spot in the ‘Shoot-Out’ and had already climbed up two places to challenge Selio. The Sharjah Team driver soon showed his experience and by only the third lap he had already opened up a gap of almost half the straight between himself and Weckstrom.
Meanwhile, working his way through the congested field was Torrente. ‘The start was insane’ he said. ‘As I approached the first turn out of nowhere came Duarte Benavente and I was convinced he was going to end up hitting the rocky shore line, so I backed off expecting his impact but somehow he managed to just glance off them and continued on.’
Unfortunately by this stage Ferdinand Zandbergen’s day was done. Before he had made just one lap he knew he was in trouble as coming down the straight his boat slowed dramatically, and he headed back to the pits with an engine failure.
The young Dutch driver was slightly philosophical about his first weekend of UIM F1H2O racing.
On the whole it actually went better than I had expected
he said. ‘Although an engine failure is not what I needed today just when I was beginning to develop a taste for this level of competition. My hope now is to get the opportunity next year to race for the Sharjah Team and represent my country at the top level of powerboat racing.’
Then just six laps later Roms was also heading back to the Sharjah Team pits with another engine failure. He had made a great start but was then forced very wide against the dock wall. He then found himself back down the field where he battled hard with Alberto Comparato. ‘I could close him down’ he said ‘but I didn’t have that final push I needed to overtake him, then my engine lost power, and it was all over for me’ said the disappointed Roms.
With just over ten laps till the chequered flag Marit Stromoy hit a rogue wave and launch herself into the air. The Norwegian racer was unable to react and crashed heavily in front of the packed grandstand. Fortunately, she was able to extricate herself from her stricken hull and was rushed to the waiting medical unit by the Osprey Rescue Team. Apart from a few bruises she was unharmed although a bit shaken by the crash.
‘It was over in a matter of seconds’ said Stromoy. ‘That part of the race course had been very tricky all weekend with many drivers getting airborne there, just my luck I had to go one further.
I was very grateful the airbag deployed and the next thing I remember was crawling into the rescue boat.’ Stromoy is without doubt one of the fittest racers on the UIM circuit and that certainly showed as she was able to walk away from such a heavy impact like that with nothing more than a fair bruises from her seat belt.
On the re-start Andersson powered away in first while four other drivers were charging into turn four with little space separating them. Selio had Weckstrom just to his inside and as they neared the buoy Weckstrom lost control of his DAC and crashed into the rear of Selio’s BaBa hull.
Sami was out unhurt but was extremely upset that he had a certain second place robbed by a ‘rookie’ mistake, one the UIM Officials would punish Weckstrom with by giving him a yellow card.
‘I was absolutely sure that I would have finish second today’ said Selio. ‘And now all I have to show for it is a damaged boat and another engine to fix. This was not how we had planned to end the season.’
With all the debris in the water, the Osprey Rescue team worked as hard as they could getting the course cleared for the re-start but time and the forty laps ran out. Andersson was declared the winner of the race and World Champion for the first time in his fifteenth year of racing in the UIM F1H2O series.
‘It’s been a very frustrating two years waiting for redemption after losing the championship title back in 2019 when I lost out even though I was tied on points with Torrente’ said the 47-year-old driver from Frovi, Sweden.
‘I not only want to thank my team but also the support I have received from back home that has kept me on the right road this year. Now it’s an incredible feeling and it shows that as long as we finish we will finish fast.’
Disappointment though for Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi who lost out from becoming the first Arab driver to win the F1H2O crown by a single point. The Emirati had made a typically strong bid to climb into that all important second place which would have made him world champion, but ultimately lost out as the Finnish ‘rookie’ Alec Weckstrom took that spot.
It wasn’t all bad news for them though as Team Abu Dhabi secured the UIM F1H2O Team Championship for a fourth year in succession.
The 37th U.I.M. F1 H2O World Championship season has now ended with a new World Champion and four new talented drivers making the future of the sport looking bright for the eagerly anticipated 2022 campaign