Thani Al Qamzi, Sami Selio and Jay Price push him to The Final Race!
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Thursday, December 31, 2009 – It seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Like a surfer, waiting for that perfect “endless wave”. For awhile, it was as if the harder he tried the worst his chances would get.
Well, four years and 38 races later the dream finally came true. Italian Guido Cappellini saved his best performances for the final month of the 2009 season winning three straight times and pulling away from the rest of the competition to win his long awaited 10th title. It turned out to be one of the most exciting seasons in the 29 year history of the U.I.M. F1 H20 World Championship for power boating while removing the “bad luck” monkey off his back at the same time.
His nine month struggle, towards his most coveted goal, started without much fanfare. It began with a pair of poor performances at the opening two rounds in April at the Grand Prix weekend in lovely Portimao along Portugal’s Algarve coast. His duo of failures in not finishing the races were continuing a dangerous trend that was his signature of the 2008 championship his worst season ever in F1 with a 10th in the standings. His luck was about to change as the series headed north to Finland.
“We knew we were behind and had to catch up in the points in a hurry and the win in Lahti turned it around for us and got our confidence back,” said Guido. “We had bad luck in Russia and I think this was our low point before turning it around in a big way starting in China. This, for sure was the turning point of the season.”
The Zepter Team number one after China was still only third in the championship but was making up ground fast with his rivals having their own struggles and by the time the championship had moved to Qatar in late November the cast was set for Guido to turn the corner on his title hopes with his 60th career victory in Doha’s first race followed by his 61st from pole position giving him a clean sweep and officially taking over the points championship that he would never yield the rest of the season.
“The two events in Qatar followed by the win in the first event in Abu Dhabi really put the pressure on everyone else,” said the driver from Como. “After that, it was a matter of getting to the finish line for the final two events. It’s so satisfying winning this 10th championship and really I cherish this season as something special, battling back to take it near the end, memorable.”
Cappellini’s third place finish at the final Grand Prix in Sharjah gave him 153 points and cleared the way for his title with five victories on the season and 10 points ahead of second place driver Thani Al Qamzi of Team Abu Dhabi who put together a stellar season. He jumped out front following his 29 point scoring weekend in Portugal leading most of the season in the driver’s championship only to lose it briefly to three other drivers when it was all said and done. The nine year racing veteran had a win and six podiums along with 12 top-five finishes to have one of the most prolific seasons in the history of the sport while claiming 143 points.
Thani’s teammate is Ahmad Al Hameli, who took the opening Grand Prix of the season from pole position and was showing that in only his third year of racing, was going to be a serious contender for the world title. However, reliability woes bit him for most of the season with five failures to finish tagged along with a pair of crashes which saw him eventually take seventh in the championship with 84 total points.
The duo from Abu Dhabi along with their team manager in four-time World Champion Scott Gillman proved that together they would be a force all season long lifting their squad to the prestedgious “Team Championship” with 227 points dominating the rest of the series beating the World Champion Guido Cappellini’s Zepter Team by 59 points.
The 2007 World Champion Sami Selio of Finland made both headlines and history in ’09 by breaking the all-time record for pole positions in one season earning eight poles in the final 10 races. His capturing of the final victory of the season in Sharjah gave him third overall in the championship with 135 points. This season marks the third straight year he’s finished the driver’s championship in the top-three while winning three races including in Liuzhou and Shenzhen in China back in October.
The driver from Helsinki never was in the points lead but came close after starting the season with zero points after the first two rounds in Portugal. Of the ten races he finished six were on the podium. His Mad Croc F1 Team Woodstock organization went thru a host of teammates including BABA boat builder and friend Massimo Roggiero of Italy. The veteran of 12 F1 seasons who has won three times on the tour, left after only two starts while earning one pole position at the Grand Prix in Finland.
Italian Daniele Martignoni raced the first six meetings of the season picking up 10 points on the year before stopping his involvement on the campaign after St. Petersburg. While, picking up the torch, was another Italian Rinaldo Osculati, who entered 10 races and ended with four points with two fine ninth place finishes improving steadily as a rookie at both races in Sharjah.
Finishing fourth in the championship with 125 points was the defending World Champion Jay Price of the Qatar Team. The American driver had four victories, which was the second most by any driver all season, but in 15 starts Jay had a very inconsistent year with five failures to finish and two mishaps that seemed to force the team to play catch-up for the remainder of the season and take the steam out of his championship hopes.
The driver from New Orleans, Louisiana took over the championship lead briefly after winning back to back events in Lahti and St. Petersburg. However, the season started turning sour when he failed to start the second event in Russia, followed up with a crash and two straight DNF’s in China. This made his mission much harder by the time the final Middle East swing started.
Jay won back to back in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah but by then Cappellini was in control and all hopes ended when he crashed out on the opening lap of the final event in Sharjah. Jay continues on one of the hottest streaks in F1 racing history with 13 straight podium finishes either in first or second place when he completes a Grand Prix in over his last two seasons.
The Qatar Team as was the Mad Croc squad went thru a few drivers during the campaign. Englishman Andy Elliott started the season with a fine fourth at the second meeting only to fail to start and fail to finish in Finland’s pair of Grand Prix’s then ending his season with a serious crash on the Neva River in St. Petersburg.
Elliott’s replacement was another talented veteran in Australian driver Craig Bailey. Like Elliott, Craig was a past winner on the tour, but after three straight top 10 finishes Craig got involved in an accident at a home race in Australia ending his season as well.
The third driver of the number two boat for the Qatar Team was another Englishman in rookie Malcolm Goodman and the driver from Prescott in Merceyside, did a solid job with an eye opening fifth in his first ever F1 event in Doha. He followed this up with a series of three DNF’s and a crash wrapping up the season with an eighth place in Sharjah and 10 total points for 17th position in the drivers championship.
Swedish driver Jonas Andersson once again proved to be one of the most exciting drivers on the tour. Picking up a pair of wins first in Russia and then Liuzhou he led the drivers championship for almost a third of the season before struggling. The Team Azerbaijan driver with a strong resume including two F2 titles, Andersson had five podium finishes as well, but three DNF’s and a crash didn’t help his cause. Jonas failed to get a top five performance in the final seven races of the campaign coming home fifth in the championship with 118 points.
Meanwhile, female sensation Marit Stromoy of Norway once again proved she just might be the “Danica Patrick” of boat racing by taking great strides this year with a pair of fifth place finishes along with 10 top-10’s in fifteen starts. Marit saved the best for last with a qualifying effort of seventh finishing fifth in Sharjah to cap a solid year taking 12th place with 37 points.
Francesco Cantando of Milan regained some of his mojo in 2009 finishing sixth in the drivers championship with 87 points. He immediately claimed that his personally built Blaze boat balance problems had been solved and proved it to be so with a strong qualifying second position at the first race and a second place finish in the next event in Portugal. What ended up hurting the Singha Team driver over the season was his seven DNF’s and one accident thus eliminating half of the races with no points what so ever. His four runner-up positions made a statement however that the Italian will be primed for his 12th career victory sometime in the near future.
Cantando’s teammate Marco Gambi had his best season of his career finishing 16th in the championship with 11 points. His finest qualifying effort of his career came with an eighth place start at the final race of the season, coupled with an eighth place finish at the 15th round in Sharjah being his high water mark of 2009 for this ex-historic auto racer.
French driver Philippe Chiappe proved that all his hard work in years past are now paying dividends with an eighth place in the championship on 82 total points. The Atlantic Team driver who races the French built Moore boat not only reached the podium for the first time in his career not once but four times with thirds in St. Petersburg, Shenzhen, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.
The driver from Cau de Bec, had a career best qualifying effort with a second at the Grand Prix of Qatar. His only blemish on the year came in the final weekend when he crashed out heavily at the first event in Sharjah on the opening lap destroying his boat and failing to start the final event the next day. His career is bright and is hoping to be the first French driver to win an F1 race since Philippe Dessertenne did so in Helsinki back in 2002.
Duarte Benavente of Portugal helped the Atlantic Team with 41 points good enough for an 11th in the overall championship. Duarte’s most memorable moment came at his home Grand Prix in Portimao when he scored a podium third place finish in his DRAGON built boat. He had 10 top-10 finishes on the season with five DNF’s in 15 official starts. His best qualifying performance was a fifth at the opening race of the Abu Dhabi weekend.
Italian veteran Fabio Comparato finished ninth in the championship with 71 points in a mixed bag for 2009. The high points were his podium placed thirds in Finland and Qatar, while his team sponsors illness was a definite low for the squad of the 800 Doctor Team. Fabio had five top-five finishes and 10 top-10’s. His season ended quietly when he was a victim of a first lap crash in Sharjah that gave him no opportunity to gain any more points in the final two events for this one time winner on the tour.
Valerio Lagiannella was a loyal teammate all season finishing 15th with 13 points in 10 race starts. The Italian from Merate, had four top-10’s along with five DNF’s with his best day being a sixth at the first of two events in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Swedish driver Pierre Lundin was a disappointed 10th in the championship with 56 points for the China CTIC Team. The driver from Eskilstuna, was on the podium with a third in Liuzhou, China, while gathering five top-five’s combined with nine top-10’s. He was hampered by two disqualifications taking out a pair of buoys in both the Finnish and Russian Grand Prix’s. His two crashes in Shenzhen and Abu Dhabi didn’t help him either in his dream to reach the top-five in the championship.
His teammate Fabian Kalsow of Germany had another consistant year despite switching from his BABA hull to DAC and back to BABA during the campaign. The driver from Neustadt had a career best 13th overall with 30 points after nine months of racing. His high water marks came with a fourth place finish in Shenzhen and a 10th place qualifying start in Abu Dhabi. Fabian had nine top-10’s mixed in with only one DNF in 15 starts. The one-time Rookie-of-the-Year will, like his teammate, be hoping for better things in 2010.
Others running in the 2009 campaign were Zepter Team drivers Ugis Gross of Latvia who was on his way to an easy Rookie-of-the-Year trophy with a pair of sixth’s and four top-10’s in all his finished races only to run out of financing after China and leaving the tour. The driver from Jelgava, is hoping to put together another “Mean Green Machine” effort and return to the series next season.
His replacement, Tomas Cermak became the first Slovakian driver ever to race in the F1 series starting four races and dropping out early in each event. His best qualifying effort was a fine 11th at the first race in Doha. Tomas failed to reach the points table this season but wants to try again in 2010.
Russian driver Stanislav Kourtsenovsky brought a new boat to the tour and raced in both events in Lahti, Finland. His results were a 10th in the first event and a 12th in the second. Again, the driver from St. Petersburg is hoping to come back full time next year.
The 2009 campaign saw 24 drivers from 14 different nations and four different continents race on a nine month journey to determine who is the most talented on water for the U.I.M. F1 H2O World Championship. It took to the final three weeks, but when push came to shove in a physical championship the saying would read “Going Fast With Ageless Class” as the 20 year F1 veteran with 172 career starts Guido Cappellini would have his star shine the brightest. His three critical race wins in a row in the final six Grand Prix’s were the key to him capturing his long sought after 10th World Championship.
As 2010 looms around the corner and the 30th year marking the start of the U.I.M. F1 H2O World Championship questions already begin to arise. Will Cappellini race another season now that he has his 10th title? Will this be the season that the Abu Dhabi duo of Al Qamzi and Al Hameli take over as the drivers to beat on the tour as well as the team to beat? Can Sami Selio and Jay Price regain their consistency needed to win a second championship? Will Philippe Chiappe win for the first time and then again? Is Francesco Cantando on the doorstep to his first World Title?
All this and more are just a few months away from being played out. So, stay with us as a new anniversary chapter begins in 2010.
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