At a lavish Gala Dinner held at the legendary Haikko Manor and Wellness Spa in Porvoo, near Helsinki, the Finnish Sailing & Boating Association held a joint prize giving ceremony for powerboat racing and watercraft.
Amongst those racers receiving an award was the Sharjah Team’s Sisu Seliöwho became the first ever UIM GT10 Finnish Champion.
Sisu Seliö, whose father Sami races in the F1H2O World Championship for the Sharjah Team, secured the Finnish Championship by just two points from the reigning GT10 Nordic Champion Valter Laine.
Of the four round series organised and promoted by RaceWKND Seliö took the top step of the winners podium at Rauma and again at Vaasa, which was the young racers favourite race venue. Originally called the SJ-15 Junior Class, it was first established back in 1988 in Finland by Sisu’s Grandfather, Niilo Seliö who along with the Finish Motorboat Federation created it with the idea of giving young children a similar opportunity that ‘Go-Karting’ gave those who wanted to start car racing but preferred to race on water. The following season the class run for twelve–fifteen-year- olds attracted fourteen entries.
For the first ten years the class ran with 15HP 2-stroke engines but by 1998 boats were appearing with 15HP 4-stroke engine. Then in 2002 all the engines were change to 4-stroke and by 2017 the class was changed to run only 10Hp 4-stroke engines. 2018 was the first year that the RaceWKND series ran this new class attracting just five drivers.
This year they have tripled their entry such is the popularity of the class now run for seven to twelve-year-olds.
Nuppu Böhmig one of the RaceWKND Promoters said:
New drivers come every year and we have found the best way to get the kids to drive is to run ‘Try Out Days’ and then hopefully we can enrol them into our Academy. That’s how we get the kids in Finland onto the water.
Following much canvassing from both the Finnish Sailing & Boating Association and its Chairman Sami Seliö the sport’s international governing body, the Union Internationale Motonautique has finally now recognised the class.
All of Sami Seliö’s children have competed in the Optimist sailing class, which originally designed back in 1947 has since become one of the biggest ‘One-Design’ boat category in sailing. Now Seliö believes that this GT10 class will become the ‘Optimist’ of the powerboat racing world.
“GT10 was the UIMʼs ‘missing’ class where young children can take their first step into ‘real’ powerboat racing”
“The most important thing is that it makes the starting point of this sport both level and as easy as possible for everyone.
This class does not require any specific skills from the driver or parents or mechanics and provides a good foundation and knowledge of the sport.”
The class is powered by four-stroke factory-made carburettor engines from either Yamaha, Mercury, or Tohatsu producing an approximate race speed of 45 km/h. The only approved hull is a Speedrace boat complying with specification in the UIM homologation file. Several UIM National Federations including Lithuania, Portugal and Sharjah have already purchased a set of moulds from Finland to produce the hulls. More countries have shown an interest including Ireland, Estonia, Norway, Egypt, and Fujairah.
With the class being an official UIM one we see its future as being a bright one
said Böhmig. “Our GT10 racers were so excited to travel last year to Lithuania to race with the drivers from the Academy run by the UIM European F2 Champion and President of the Lithuanian Motorboat Federation Edgaras Riabko. Our young powerboaters can’t wait to get to more international events. So, Finland is ready to rock in GT10 class.”
She continued by saying that to teach these young drivers good ‘race craft’ they always reverse the top ten on the starting grid after each of their four heats. That way they all get the chance to learn to safely overtake each other during the race.
“We now have four Finnish drivers racing in the F1H2O World Championship considered the pinnacle of circuit racing, Sami Seliö for the Sharjah Team, Filip Roms for Gillman Racing and Team Sweden’s Kalle Viippo. They all started their racing career in this type of class which means our young drivers can all see where one day they could be racing.” In the meantime Sisu Seliö will continue racing in GT10.“I love going racing” he said.
“It’s hard when they reverse the grid but it’s fun trying to catch people then try and pass them.
Some weekends are really tricky, like in Jyväskylä where I broke the engine’s mid-section but the team fixed it and I then went out and won the final heat. Next year I wish there were more races because they are fun.”
The Sharjah Team will also start testing sessions for him as he prepares to move up to the GT15 category possibly also developing a new hull fitted with a halo type safety device in the process. Sami Seliö concluded by saying “In the GT10 class children can start learning the basics of competing in a safe as well as an equal class. After that, it will be much easier for them to move on to the GT15 class which is already more demanding. Then it’s GT30, Formula Four, Formula 2 and perhaps one day they will win the F1H2O World Championship title for Finland.”