This weekend the Jedovnice Water Sports Club will host the start of this year’s Hydro GP World Championship on the Olšovec Lake in Jedovnice, Czech Republic. Without doubt this race will probably be an emotional roller-coaster for Robert Hencz who won the 2020 UIM F500 World Championship title there; he just didn’t know it at the time as he was heading to hospital in an air ambulance.
Czech Journalist Milan Spurný (MS), who is based at the iMotorZOOM.cz editorial office shares with PRW an interview he did with Hencz prior to this weekend’s action.
I went through the historical tables, and I first recorded you in the F500 World Championship back in 2009, when you finished fourth overall. At that time, your compatriot Marián Jung took the title, second was Tiziano Trombetta and third was Attila Havas, the most successful powerboat racer in terms of medals won at UIM races. It was your first season in F500, how would you rate your class debut?
Yes, the 2009 season was my F500 debut and the racing was stunning. My first race was in Jedovnice, where the O-700 European Championship took place. But I raced with a 500-cc engine among the stronger “sevens” and I still finished second. So, at the beginning of my F500 career, I was runner-up in the O-700 European Championship, it was an incredible experience.
You probably didn’t start as an F500 class driver. When did you first start and in what class?
I started racing back in 1995 in the OSY-400 category, then I raced in F-125 and since 2009 I have been competing in the F-500 and O-700 class.
It took you five seasons to win your first F500 world title. That year the championship consisted of six events, and you managed to score in all six rounds to beat Havas by two points, and Jung by eight.
2013 was a miracle. I won the title in the last race of the sixth round which took place in Berlin. I won it beating Havas in the process. Jung did not finish that race and I became the World Champion; of course, I still remember my first world title.
In the following seasons you raced in the F500 World Championships and then came the covid year of 2020. That year the World Championship was held as a one-off race in Jedovnice, with three out of four races to count. That was where you won your second world title, which you will certainly not forget for the rest of your life as you ended the fourth heat being flown by helicopter to the hospital in Brno. What thoughts followed, you ended up in the hospital and the doctors shared the extent of your injuries?
The moment of the accident I remember, a big blow came, but I didn’t know from whom. Then the “splinters” just flew, and I tried to move my head up and down. There was a lot of pain, I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew I had a big problem. After the rescue operation, I remember fewer things, some moments in the rescue boat, in the ambulance, and then I was in the helicopter.
Subsequently, I did not know anything about what was happening in Jedovnice, whether the race was restarted or not. I didn’t find out that I was the UIM F500 World Champion until late in the evening when my teammates came to the hospital to see me. I cried with joy, but I was strapped to the bed in great pain.
Then, after a few minutes, the unwelcome news came that the extent of my injury was large and profoundly serious, because I had damaged my spine in several places. I cried a second time. Fortunately, I was operated on at the teaching hospital by specialists who did a though professional job.
Several months of recovery at home followed and to this day I have titanium reinforcement and screws in my spine. It can still be felt there today, but I must live with it.
You missed the 2021 season, but you did not “sit” at home. At the European Championships in Chodzież, Poland you were coaching Leva Millere, which was a new experience for you. What did this “managerial” experience bring you personally?
Yes, I sold my raceboat to Millere, whom I coached, taught, and helped all season. But I also helped and coached David Loukotka in everything, I passed on all my best experiences to both of them.
Last year you returned to Jedovnice and to the accident scene and you went out in an F500 practice session.
I was incredibly happy that the organisers allowed me to go out. Most of all I was able to complete a lap of honour to celebrate my 2020 World Championship title. It was a sensational experience. In practice I passed the spot where the crash happened. At first my body tensed up, but then everything was ok.
So, after a one-year break, you are returning to the racing carousel of the UIM F500 World Championship. Surely you will not only want to race but fight for the highest places, won’t the ‘old’ injury be a burden?
Yes, I’m going back and I’m going to fight for the title. My health is already good, but I still have pain. How I will experience it emotionally and how it will affect my psyche; you must ask me after the races. I can’t say if my injury will be a hindrance for me, but one thing is for sure – I’m going to fight for a new title.
This article was prepared by Milan Spurný.
Based in Brno, Czech Republic, Spurný runs Studio diSTy who have been providing exceptional graphic work and pre-press services since 1992. Since 2000 they have been supplying customers with a photographic service that covers not just important life events but also product photography in their studio which can then be used to create promotional materials. PRW are looking forward to further collaborations with him.