For the second time in succession this season a UIM F1H2o Grand Prix was brought to its conclusion under a combination of yellow and chequered flags and to those watching from the shoreline and via the internet it probably produced an unsatisfactory result. One driver though who was more than happy to see the chequered flag being waved, this time by the UIM President Dr. Raffaele Chiulli, as the pack crawled their way past race control, was the lead driver of the Mad-Croc BaBa Racing Team, Sami Selio.
Right up till the very end of the Grand Prix, the Finnish driver was having a frustrating time at the Evian based event. The day before, he had posted the fastest times in both Q1 and Q2 but strong westerly winds combined with large swells had forced the UIM Race Officials into postponing the final Q3 “Shootout” until Sunday morning. To underline their decision, just moments before the Q2 session was about to end, Emirates Team driver, Ahmed Al Hameli had blown his boat over in spectacular fashion, fortunately he escaped unhurt, though his team’s mechanics knew they would be working late into the night to fix the boat.
Sunday morning meant an early start for the top six fastest drivers and it would be the local hero Philippe Chiappe who would post the quickest time on this occasion. “I really thought it would be calmer out there this morning” said Selio, who qualified back in fifth place. “I chose the wrong propeller and it cost me at least three seconds.”
When the start lights went out Selio was quickly swallowed up by the Swedish driver Jonas Andersson and it wasn’t long before Jesper Forss, Andersson’s team-mate, had also got past the Finn. “I didn’t want to risk it in the opening stages of the race” said Selio, “Plus I knew that Forss had a longer boat than my BaBa one, so he coped better in the rough conditions”.
As the race reached the half distance mark Selio knew it was time to strike and he quickly moved up to fourth place. “I kept telling myself that it was extremely important to finish the race but the balance of the boat was getting so much better that my appetite for a podium finish suddenly came back”.
Then all of a sudden Chiappe, who had been cruising off into what looked like a comfortable race lead suddenly ground to a halt. That promoted Selio into third place and with it came a rye smile of satisfaction. He knew that it would be a tough ask to close up on Torrente, who was occupying second place and almost impossible to challenge Carella for the lead but all that was about to change.
Fighting over sixth place was the ‘young gun’ Erik Stark and the vastly experienced Francesco Cantando, who had started the race way back in sixteenth place. On this occasion Cantando made an uncharacteristic mistake and tagged Stark as they were approaching a turn mark. Over went the unfortunate Italian and out came the yellow flags.
With just ten laps to go before the finish, the Osprey Rescue Teams knew they didn’t have long to tidy up the mess, which they ably completed. Then as the pack made their way around the two kilometre circuit following the pace-boat, Selio suddenly knew something was wrong. A bolt had come loose on the air intake, which meant he no longer had full throttle.
A mix up between the race control and the pace boat meant they were fast running out of laps, so the officials took the decision to finish under the yellow flag. “I knew that if they had restarted the race I would be like a sitting duck in the huntsman’s sights” said a relieved Selio. “I would have dropped way back down the field, so for once luck was on my side.” This was more than could be said for the unfortunate Torrente who pulled off the circuit with a mechanical problem, moving Selio up to second place.
“Racing in France has always been good for me” said Selio. “I started my UIM F1 career here when I made my debut in Chalon-sur-Soane, plus my first UIM F1 victory was the Grand Prix of France in La Rochelle back in 2007, so getting my fortieth podium place here this afternoon I think is really something special.”
The third round of the UIM F1H2O World Championships moves onto Portugal when the Portuguese Grand Prix takes place in Porto on the weekend of August 1 – 2.
Result for the F1H2O Grand Prix of France:
1. Alex Carella ITA Team Abu Dhabi 34 laps
2. Sami Selio FIN Mad-Croc BaBa Racing 33 laps
3. Youssef Al Rubayan KUW F1 Atlantic Team 33 laps
4. Jonas Andersson SWE Team Sweden 33 laps
5. Filip Roms FIN Mad-Croc BaBa Racing 33 laps
6. Shaun Torrente USA Victory Team 33 laps
7. Jesper Forss SWE Team Sweden 32 laps
8. Bartek Marzsalek POL Motorglass F1 Team 32 laps
9. Cedric Deguisne FRA Maverick Racing 32 laps
10. Christophe Larigot FRA Team EMIC 31 laps