H2O Racing
Union Internationale Motonautique


December 5, 2023


Tuesday, December 5: This weekend’s Road to Sharjah-Grand Prix of Sharjah on Khalid Lagoon will decide the outcome of the Teams’ Championship and Fast Lap and Pole Position trophies after Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson clinched his second world title in Sardinia in September with a round to spare. The final Grand Prix of the year will take centre stage from 15.00hrs on Sunday (December 10th).

This year’s UIM F1H2O World Championship has been fought out over four rounds so far and the Sharjah finale will draw the curtain on an enthralling season, which has seen 10 teams and 22 different drivers in action at spectacular Grand Prix in Indonesia, China, France and Italy.

Andersson won his first world title in 2021 and narrowly missed out on a repeat success in Sharjah last year. But the Swedish veteran came back at the start of the 2023 season focused and even more determined to win another title. He led early October’s Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy from start-to-finish to duly confirm a second Drivers’ Championship. That result came on the back of an impressive victory at the Grand Prix of France on the River Saône in Mâcon and victory at the Grand Prix of Zhengzhou, China after a modest eighth-place finish at the opening round in Indonesia.  

The Swedish veteran has shown a blistering turn of pace this season and was embroiled in two sensational BRM Qualifying sessions with arch rival Shaun Torrente of Team Abu Dhabi. He arrives in Sharjah with an 18-point cushion in the BRM Pole Position Trophy and with Team Sweden also strong favourites to win the Teams’ Championship for the first time.  After finishing second to the all-conquering Team Abu Dhabi in 2019, 2021 and 2022, the Scandinavian outfit is primed and can focus solely on securing the Teams’ title.

Andersson and team-mate Kalle Viippo have amassed 65 points from four race starts and arrive in Sharjah with an 11-point cushion over the Sharjah Team, with Sami Seliö and his team-mate Ferdinand Zandbergen doubly determined to succeed on their sponsor’s home race course in the UAE. With the result of both drivers counting towards the final tally, the double World Champion and his Dutch team-mate are far from being out of contention in Sharjah and Viippo will need to try and put points on the board to support Andersson in Team Sweden’s quest for glory.

Consistent performances by Peter Morin and useful results by Brent Dillard have pushed the China CTIC Team into third place, albeit 19 points adrift of the leaders. It’s still mathematically possible for the team operating out of France to win the title, but they are relying on non-finishes for their rivals for this to happen.

Team Abu Dhabi has been the dominant force in the modern era of the UIM F1H2O World Championship and has won the Teams’ Championship six times in the last seven seasons (2015, 2017-2019 and 2021-2022). But the operation running out of the Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club (ADMSC) is currently 21 points adrift of Team Sweden and needing podium finishes to stand any chance of defending the title. The Victory Team’s Erik Stark and Ahmed Al-Fahim are fifth in the rankings, albeit 27 points behind the leading Team Sweden.

While Andersson basks in the glory of his second world title, the runner-up spot in the Drivers’ Championship is still up for grabs and five racers from as many teams can still mathematically secure second spot.

Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen has been the Sharjah Team’s most consistent performer in 2023 and the winner of his first race in San Nazzaro last year has delivered three successive podium finishes (third in China, second in France and third in Olbia) after failing to finish in Indonesia. Currently tied with Andersson for the F1H2O Fast Lap Trophy, the Dutchman leads Stark by four points and knows that staying ahead of the Swede could be enough to secure the runner-up spot.

Stark began the season strongly with a podium finish on Sumatra’s Lake Toba and followed that up with points for fourth in China and fifth in France and Italy.

Morin is six points adrift of Zandbergen and still firmly in the hunt for second place in the Drivers’ Championship. A non-finish in China proved particularly costly for Morin, who earned a pair of fourth-place finishes in Indonesia and his native France and was runner-up to Andersson in Sardinia.

It has not been the best of years for Team Abu Dhabi veteran Thani Al-Qamzi, although the Emirati still holds fifth in the title race and a win and results going his way could see the DAC driver leap to second in the championship. He delivered a solid fifth-place finish on Lake Toba but was not available to race in Zhengzhou for personal reasons. Al-Qamzi returned to claim the last place on the podium in France but struggled to a lowly eighth in Sardinia.

Bartek Marszalek of Poland started the season in sensational style with a maiden pole and a first ever Grand Prix win in Indonesia. But the Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team driver has struggled with race performance since then and one non-finish and two Grand Prix finishes outside the points have pushed him down the rankings to fifth. Saying that, outright victory on Khalid Lagoon and non-finishes for his closest four rivals could well be sufficient for the Pole to snatch second place at the 11th hour.

Defending champion Shaun Torrente currently lies seventh in the Drivers’ Championship after a yellow card one race suspension forced him to miss the race in Sardinia. It has not been a year to remember for the American who would dearly love to round off the season with a 12th Grand Prix win or a 31st career podium. Aside from his obvious pace in BRM qualifying sessions, the highlight of the year to date was second place in Zhengzhou for the three-time World Champion. He heads directly to the UAE’s third emirate after competing in a UIM Class 3 Offshore World Powerboat race in nearby Khor Fakkan on Thursday.

Mad Croc Gillman Racing’s Filip Roms holds eighth in the rankings after three top 10 race finishes and a DNF in France. The Finn is currently a single point ahead of fellow countryman and two-time World Champion Sami Seliö. The veteran has endured another fraught season after cruel luck in 2022. Seliö is a winner of 13 Grand Prix and has taken 50 podium finishes. He looked to have turned the corner with a superb second place in Indonesia but boat damage forced him to retire in China and France and engine issues in Sardinia meant he was unable to qualify through the repêchage or ‘last chance saloon’.

Dillard has managed four top 10 finishes in his first season as the replacement for multiple World Champion Philippe Chiappe in the China CTIC Team. The American has set some excellent lap times and is 10th in the Drivers’ Championship. A single point behind the South Carolina-based racer is the young Italian Alberto Comparato. The 26-year-old, from Chioggia, failed to finish in France but picked up points in both China and Sardinia and won his sprint race to qualify second at the last round before going on to finish fourth.

Grant Trask joined the Mad Croc Gillman Racing operation as a replacement for Alec Weckström following the Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia. The Australian settled in well, despite a non-finish in China. He followed up that outing with a pair of seventh-place finishes at the two European rounds of the championship to hold 12th in the points’ table.

Marit Strømøy started the season with a conventional two-stroke Mercury engine in her DAC and had been eagerly awaiting the delivery of a new DAC fitted with a Mercury Racing 4-stroke 360 Apex V8 engine before the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy. After two non-finishes and a sixth place at the opening three rounds, the new project breathed fresh impetus into the Strømøy Racing F1H2O Team driver’s season and the Sandefjord racer set impressive lap times in specific sessions in Olbia before finishing out of the points in 12th overall.

She is currently tied with Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi on five points in 13th position. Al-Qemzi stood in for his cousin Thani in China and finished seventh, before replacing the suspended Torrente to earn a single point for 10thplace in Sardinia. Away from the spotlight of the UIM F1H2O series, the Emirati also secured a fourth UIM F2 World Championship title this season.

Both Brock Cohen of the Comparato F1 Team and the Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim arrive in Sharjah tied on three points and 15th in the Drivers’ Championship. Cohen’s sole foray into the points came with eighth overall in France, while Al-Fahim was 10th in Indonesia and ninth in France, his season not helped by a spectacular practice accident in China that put paid to any chance of the boat being readied in time for a race start.

The only other two racers to have scored points to date are Viippo and Maverick Racing’s Alexandre Bourgeot. Viippo was ninth in China, while the Frenchman rounded off the top 10 at his home race in Mâcon and missed out on qualifying for the race in Sardinia in the repêchage.

Three of the field set for the race in Sharjah have yet to score points in this year’s World Championship. Portuguese veteran Duarte Benavente leads the F1 Atlantic Team and the veteran of 173 Grand Prix has been out of the points on each occasion this season, although he failed to qualify in Italy. Young Briton Ben Jelf joined the line-up towards the end of last year and has also suffered his fair share of bad luck after making the step up from the UIM F2 World Championship. He managed to qualify for the race in Sardinia by winning the repêchage and finished the race out of the points in 13th.

Frenchman Cédric Deguisne is also pointless after four races and one DNF in his Maverick Racing Moore hull. He dropped out of contention early in the French race that he helped to organise and that followed two finishes outside the top 10 in Indonesia and China. A determined late effort to displace Jelf and Cohen in the repêchage in Sardinia was to no avail and he failed to qualify for the Olbia race.

On-water action gets underway with a one-hour extra free practice session from 14.00hrs on Friday (December 8th).