It might have been a ‘Black Friday’ around the rest of the world but here in Figueira Da Foz, on the Portuguese Silver Coast it was more a ‘Red Letter’ day for Sweden’s Jonas Andersson when he led from the start to claim victory at the Grand Prix of Figueira Da Foz.
He made the perfect start after waiting for what seemed an age whilst the Osprey Rescue Team battled hard to keep the turn buoys from heading out into the Atlantic Ocean. To say the cross winds were making life hard was probably the understatement of the weekend so far, but in true F1H2O fashion the show must go on after all the old adage of ‘driving to the conditions’ was never more poignant.
Such was the hold up that Shaun Torrente even contacted his radioman Alessandro Cremona to ask the UIM race officials if they could run another parade lap just to warm the engines up. This request apparently was met with a polite but slightly blunt response.
‘I knew when I asked Alex to speak to Louis it was like sending him into the ‘lion’s den’ joked Torrente.
With the sun slowly sinking towards the horizon the roar of fifteen Mercury F1 motors starting up certainly got the seagulls attentions as the pack headed for the first turn. It looked like Andersson was already half way to Lisbon before everyone else had left the start pontoon though. Sami Selio was one of those drivers whose engine didn’t fire at the press of the start button but fortunately for him those drivers around him maintained their lanes to the first turn so the Sharjah Team racer managed to make up some of the territory that he had lost.
Already ahead of him was Torrente on a charge to catch Andersson, Marit Stromoy and Peter Morin, although the CTIC Shenzen China Team driver had already fallen foul of a ‘start line infringement’ and would eventually be handed a one lap penalty. For Selio though it was about to get a whole lot worse when his race was cut short after just seven laps when a small bolt holding the engine’s throttle linkage together broke leaving him stranded just past the finish line. Also heading back to the pits after posting a solitary lap was Bartek Marszalek.
At the restart it was situation normal out in front with Andersson controlling the pace as the remaining drivers battled to survive the increasingly tricky conditions. The mid-afternoon cross winds were now hitting speeds of more than twenty-five knots at times forcing drivers to race defensively for more than 45 minutes on the rough Rio Mondego in front of thousands of locals that had wrapped up warm to watch the race.
Torrente was now coming under increasing pressure from Morin, so had little choice but to give Andersson the ‘hurry-up’ if he was going to hang onto second place. Having a great battle was the debut driver Ferdinand Zandbergen. As his race got going he had been trying to catch Stromoy but as he got close enough to pounce out came the yellow flags and he had to hold his position. Once racing resumed the Norwegian used her experience to put enough distance between herself and the Sharjah Team driver.
‘For the last fifteen laps I was having problems with visibility’ said Zandbergen. ‘The salt water kept making it difficult to see out of the cockpit screen.’
Fortunately, he was able to continue and crossed the finish line much to the delight of his team. Watching on from the shore were his proud parents and Zandbergen joked that his mother’s pulse rate was probably higher than his Mercury engine’s RPM.
Stromoy had been concerned about propeller choice but from the start she made she need not have worried.
‘I can’t remember making such a great start as that’ she said.
‘It was me and Andersson out in front, but I had to leave room for both Torrente and Selio at the first turn.’ After that she had Morin now very large in her mirrors to contend with.
The French driver was certainly making his presence felt racing a Moore hull perfectly suited to the rough conditions. Lap after lap he looked for ways to get past and knew his best opportunity would come at the right hander and it wasn’t long before he muscled his way past her.
‘The first time he tried that move I was ready for him’ said Stromoy. ‘It as only going to be a matter of time before he got by me though as he had the better set up. Today I needed a slightly long hull but only by a few centimetres.’
Having their own little battle was the local hero Duarte Benavente and Alberto Comparato. The Portuguese racer was starting his nineteenth Grand Prix in his home country and needed all his knowledge to hold back the young Italian to finish in the point.
‘I have been missing this feeling’ said Benavente, ‘To finish an F1 race in the points in my home country is an absolute delight.’
Alec Weckstrom of Finland driving for the Gillman Racing Team was another driver happy to finish in the points. He had started at the tail end of the field in fifteenth place and eventually finished in tenth place.
That warm feeling of a job well done was also shared by the overall victor Jonas Andersson. Putting the flat water so cherished by those starting on pole position to excellent use was just what he did when the start light went out.
‘We were flying in a very strange way’ said the Swede. ‘The cross winds were playing havoc today, so I decided to slow down but then Torrente started to push me to the final pin, so I then had to balance out speed over survival’ he continued. ‘The important thing is we are still involved in the championship hunt and it now all comes down to Sunday afternoon.’
Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente knew that survival would be important in his pursuit for that third successive drivers’ title that’s now within his grasp.
‘The conditions made everyone drive safely today’ said the American. ‘I have never been past by anyone in an F1 boat, and I wasn’t about to end that statistic today. I’m exactly where I need to be right now in the title hunt.’
The American driver had shown those fighting qualities which took him to the world title in 2018 and 2019 by snatching his place in the ‘Shoot-Out’ with seconds of the second qualifying session remaining.
Let’s see how he does today when they head out for the final UIM F1H2O Qualifying session later on today.[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”18″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″]