ABU DHABI - (Wednesday, August 20) - As the UIM F1 H2O World Championship powerboat series kicks off its hectic late season 2014 campaign beginning on October 4-6 at the Grand Prix of China, its hard to believe that in just two short decades the idea of coming to the "Peoples's Republic" has become an important but almost expected stopping off place in determining a world champion, in this, the sports most challenging series on water.
The host for this years event is the lovely city of Liuzhou in Southeast China, which has staged Grand Prix's every year since welcoming the series for the first time since 2008. The local delegation has built a beautiful multi-story office and VIP complex dedicated to boat racing with it's yearly signature event being the F1 Grand Prix during the countries most important yearly celebrations during the first week of October.
The 2014 Grand Prix will mark an historic milestone for the race since it will be the 20th year since the UIM F1 H2O World Championship came for its first race in 1995 on Lake Xihu (West Lake) in the city of Hangzhou.
The drivers who raced in that opening event, now all retired from F1, were greeted by nearly 500 thousand hungry race fans in this cultural city situated 200 km south of Shanghai the event. Italian legend Guido Cappellini would win the race from his third starting position off the dock beating drivers from 15 nations on his way to his third world title.
Throughout the past two decades the F1 H2O Championship has travelled to all corners of the country including Wuxi, Xiamen, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian, Shenzhen, Linyi and Liuzhou now for the seventh straight year on the Liu River.
No one driver has won more in China than Cappellini with four victories in 12 race starts. However, current star and three time defending World Champion Alex Carella of the Qatar Team is sitting just one win behind his fellow Italian with half the number of starts in Chinese waters on his resume.
The 29 year-old driver from Piacenza, who leads the drivers championship after his win back in the spring at his teams home race in Doha, Qatar has won the last two straight in Liuzhou from pole position. An unprecedented third straight win here this year, will put Alex once again in the drivers seat for a record tying four straight world title.
Alex's teammate Shaun Torrente of Miami, Florida, maybe his toughest challenge and will be pushing his friend hard as well with both testing in Italy prior to heading to China.
Shaun comes to China knowing he had the race in Doha in hand until a mechanical problem took him out of the race while in the lead with less than 10 laps remaining. The young Florida driver watched his possible 20 points blow away in the wind during the process. He'll be hungry to turn his bad luck around in Liuzhou.
However, the second round of this 2014 championship will be a lot rougher for both Carella and Torrente with the first appearance of the two-boat Team Abu Dhabi organization returning to the series with their star studded line-up of veteran's Thani Al Qamzi and Ahmed Al Hameli ready to push Carella off the top step of the podium.
Thani, has a pair of wins in China along with six podiums in 14 race starts.
His teammate and friend Ahmed, has three pole positions and who is hungry to earn his first race win here in the far east. Both drivers have been in Italy more than once this summer testing their boats at their upgraded facilities just outside Casale on the Po River with racing Team Manager and four-time World Champion Scott Gillman directing the activities.
For two-time World Champion Sami Selio, the Finnish star from Helsinki has had wild fluctuations of success and defeats here on the Liu River. In his 14 starts in China, Sami won here back to back in 2008 and again in 2009 only to crash out heavily in 2011 and 2012. His 2011 accident sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign in a year in which he had a great chance at winning a championship.
In 2012 he got knotted up with Shaun Torrente on a re-start of the race ending both their dreams of a title in an instant after the incident. Selio, like the American Torrente is going to have to work extra hard to get back into the championship picture with a good result almost a "must have" in Liuzhou.
Sitting second in the drivers table is French pilot Philippe Chiappe of the home standing CTIC China Team after a well earned second place finish in Doha behind Carella.
The likeable driver from Rouen, has scored three straight podiums in Liuzhou, all third places and hopes he can push for his second victory of his career while pushing for his first world title at the same time.
Third in the championship is Duarte Benavente of Portugal who knows he's going to have to do the opposite of everything he's ever done here in China. His 16 previous races is tied with Italian Francesco Cantando as being the most of any racer here in the "People's Republic".
For Benavente, he's never finished better than seventh while finishing below the top five in 12 of his starts while dropping out four other time with mechanical issues. The driver with the F1 Atlantic Team is going to need to repeat the same great performance he had in Doha in order for a shot at the title with consistent finishes the rest of the season.
Francesco, like Benavente, has 16 starts going back to 1996. His hi-lite was a victory in 2010 in Shenzhen going three straight races that year in China on the podium on a great individual streak of success he hopes to repeat this year.
Expected back on the tour as well will be the revamped and always popular Caudwell Racing Team from South Africa. It will mark their third season on the tour and they are looking to make their mark with new equipment and a new attitude toward winning as well.
The second round of the 2014 UIM F1 H2O World Championship will be held on the fifth and sixth of October alongside the Liu River at the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Grand Prix of China in Liuzhou.
The event can be followed live via the tours official website at www.f1h2o.com. Pole qualifying on the fifth of October while the Grand Prix will be played out on the sixth of October. It can be watched live via streaming on website from the official television "worldwide" feed.
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