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WNT Rother Valley International Grand Prix preview

Chris Davies on 31st August 2018

This weekend world class circuit racing is set to return to the UK shores, the third time in three months, when Rother Valley, near Sheffield hosts Rounds Three and Four of the UIM F4 World Series along with the UIM GT30 World Championships.

The action packed weekend will also see domestic racing with the conclusion of the RYA P750 ThunderCat National Championships.

After the opening rounds in Barcis, Italy, the Swedish racer, Morgan Jernfast, (top photo) who recently won the European Championship title, finds himself at the top of the series table but only by a slender margin in this ultra competitive class.

This will be the fourth time that the driver from Stockholm has raced in the UK; the first was back in 2015 when he crashed out during the F4 Qualifying Session in Nottingham.

Since wining the 2018 European Championship Jernfast has been out testing on several occasions:

It’s a new boat so we still have a lot to learn about it.
Our focus has been on perfecting the starts.
It’s really close between the top boats in the start run and to just get that one extra meter off the pontoon could determine the outcome of the race.

So what does the young Swede expect from this weekend?

It’s difficult to predict the outcome, one thing will be certain and that is my toughest opponents Jelf and Lehtonen will be doing all they can to take the series points lead off me.
I’ve had some close but fair racing with both of them throughout the season and I expect it to continue all the way to the final round in France.

In fact it couldn’t be any tighter at the top of points table where just one point separates Jernfast and the Finnish racer Tuukka Lehtonen, who also crashed in Nottingham back in 2015.

Finland’s Tuukka Lehtonen

This year though Lehtonen made the perfect start back in Barcis when he took maximum points in Round One, followed by a fourth place in Round Two.

He, like Jernfast, has wasted no time in developing his boat:

We’ve tried minor and major changes not just to the boat but to the whole package and I think we have moved forward since racing at the European Championships.

He continued by saying that he expected both Jernfast and Jelf to be quick this weekend:

But as there are so many good drivers and boats in this series you should never rule out any one of those racers in the top ten.

Britain’s Ben Jelf will certainly be making sure that the Scandinavian drivers don’t have it all their own way in Rother Valley as he tries his best to close the point’s gap to the leading drivers.

Ben Jelf Photo: Volker Lewalter

The multiple World and European Champion didn’t get his F4 World Series off to the best start when he failed to score in Round One.

He certainly made up for it the following day though with a dominating drive in Barcis, collecting a maximum twenty points in the process.

Since then Jelf has been a regular podium finisher at the ADAC international events held in Germany, along with winning the RYA British Sprint Championship earlier this month.

One title that eluded Jelf though was that of GT30 World Champion which the Estonian driver Stefan Arand will be very keen on retaining when he takes on the field of thirteen competitors at Rother Valley, the racer who has won the prestigious UIM Best Junior Driver title for the past two consecutive years now said:

I’m really excited about racing in England. On the two previous occasions I have raced there I came away with the GT15 European titles.
We have done a lot of testing because when you look at the entry list there are a lot of strong racers there but I’m ready to give it my maximum.

Amongst those thirteen entries is the reigning RYA GT30 British Champion, Thomas Mantripp (leading in photo above) who is feeling really confident about his World Championship chances:

I know I have the speed needed to win and this year we have been working a lot to make the starts faster and now we have achieved this.

Mantripp goes to Rother Valley with a huge advantage over the likes of Arand and the 2017 European Champion, Victoria Soodla, neither of whom have raced there before:

I have already driven this track, so I know what it’s like and let’s just say it gets a little rough very quickly out there.
A fast start is going to be so important due to the short start straight.
Then you need a mixture of top end speed and acceleration for the bottom pin turn, the propeller I have has all these quality’s which will be a big part of my speed this weekend.

During the race weekend the final rounds of the RYA P750 ThunderCat National Powerboat Racing Championships will be held with four heats and final each day.

In the P750 section James Tapp and Scott Brown in Multispark Racing (above) have already secured the title, but there is a tight battle for the remaining podium places between Kingfisher Fire & Security, Bulletproof and Student Loan.

In the Modified section, Andy White and Malachy Brown in Ocean Racing have already secured the championship, with Broad Bean in second place and Haggis Hunters in third.

On Sunday evening, during the podium presentations, ThunderCat Racing UK will be announcing the winner of a new Aquarius Inflatable P750 raceboat.

The winners name will be picked at random from a hat; those entered for the draw must have attended all the rounds of the 2018 Championship.

The RYA Powerboat Racing Manager Jeni Jelf said that the RYA was very pleased that the U.K. is hosting its third International Championship event of the year:

Following on from the success of F1H2O in London and the OSY400 Europeans in Oulton Broad, this weekend’s WNT Rother Valley GP will once again showcase to the world that Britain can provide the perfect platform to stage powerboat racing events.

She continued by saying that Powerboats GP, aided by the fantastic volunteers within the sport, has successfully hosted both National & International events for the last 7 years and was certain that this weekends WNT Rother Valley GP will be an entertaining one.

We have some strong UK competition in both the F4 and GT30 Classes and I wish Team GB along with all of our visiting foreign competitors the best of luck and a safe, successful event.

Racing gets underway each day at Rother Valley Country Park with the Practice Sessions during the morning, Qualifying at lunch time, followed by the heats for the GT30 World Championship and ThunderCats.

The afternoon will then conclude with an eighteen lap F4 Grand Prix finale.

Top Photo: Morgan Jernfast by Pascal Saint Aubin

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