The biggest smile of the day might have belonged to Philippe Chiappe, after securing his first F1H2O World Championship Drivers title but there was an equally large one on the face of Sami Seliö, the lead driver in the Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team.
As Seliö stepped ashore, following his fourth place finish in the Grand Prix of Sharjah, he knew that he had just climbed out of a raceboat that he believes will be the biggest challenge to that of the CTIC China Team next season.
– Normally when you swap raceboats mid season there are just some subtle changes made” said Seliö. – This new boat is radically different to the one I started the year with. The old one we knew was a guaranteed race winner having taken the top spot at last years Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but such is the pace of development in this championship if you snooze you loose.”
With testing time limited due to the raceboats being shipped between Grand Prix venues Selio has had very little seat time to fine tune his latest Italian built Baba hull but with the team now setting up a testing facility in Abu Dhabi they can now concentrate on getting the perfect propeller – boat balance set up before the 2015 season commences in Qatar next March.
As to today’s Grand Prix, Seliö, who is the undisputed past master of the Khalid Lagoon circuit, knew all the hard work had been done during yesterday’s qualifying and that once Chiappe had established a lead only a mechanical failure would deny the French man his first F1H2O world title.
– If you look at the results of the time trials these guys are only separated by fractions of a second, yet they all use different engine tuners and race for different raceboat manufactures. Moore, DAC, Molgaard and BaBa filled the first four places on the start grid. The fact they are so close is purely down to the skill of the drivers, and that’s why each year this championship gets tougher to win.
With it being so tight around the 2225 metre circuit, whoever made it out of the first turn leading the field would always be hard to beat and as they all safely negotiated the first turn mark it was the pole sitter Chiappe out in front. Torrente from the Qatar team had backed off from the front runners after he was squeezed in the start shoot by Ahmed Al Hameli but he was then able to take a tighter turn around that first mark allowing him to past Seliö in the process.
– Torrente was pushing really hard today, said Seliö. – I knew he would be fired up after his disappointing performance yesterday. As the race went on he made his DAC very wide down the straights so I just dropped back because I knew there would be some restart opportunity in this race.
Sure enough it wasn’t long before the yellow flags came out, followed by the pace-boat. It was Seliö’s team-mate Filip Roms who had broken down at the second mark. A throttle cable linkage had snapped which meant the young Finnish driver picked up his first DNF of the year.
In the restart both Seliö and Torrente managed to get past Jonas Andersson, who soon after retired back to the pits. Just one more restart followed after Kuwait’s Youssef Al-Rubayan flipped his boat on lap fifteen, bringing out the pace-boat once again while his stricken DAC hull was removed from the course.
With over half the Grand Prix completed it soon began to settle down with no one able to catch the fast charging Chiappe and after thirty seven laps had been completed he made powerboat racing history by becoming the first Frenchman to win the F1H2O World Championship title.
For Seliö and his Mad-Croc Baba Racing Team there was the consolation of taking third place in the 2014 Team Championship, a feat they are very proud of considering the well funded teams that finished ahead of them. Seliö knows that what they lack in budget will be more than made up by a strong team spirit and a huge amount of hard work.
Result for the F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah:
1. Philippe Chiappe FRA CTIC China Team 37 laps
2. Alex Carella QAT Qatar Team 37 laps
3. Shaun Torrente USA Qatar Team 37 laps
4. Sami Seliö FIN Mad-Croc Baba Racing 37 laps
5. Francesco Cantando ITA Motorglass F1 Team 37 laps
6. Jesper Forss SWE Team Sweden 35 laps
7. Duarte Benavente POR F1 Atlantic Team 35 laps
8. Xiong Ziwei CHN CTIC China Team 35 laps
9. Bartek Marszalek POL Motorglass F1 Team 35 laps
10. Erik Stark SWE Team Nautica 27 laps
2014 Drivers World Championship:
1. Philippe Chiappe FRA CTIC China Team 70 points
2. Alex Carella QAT Qatar Team 62 points
3. Shaun Torrente USA Qatar Team 56 points
4. Sami Seliö FIN Mad-Croc Baba Racing 33 points
5. Francesco Cantando ITA Motorglass F1 Team 28 points
6. Erik Stark SWE Team Nautica 23 points
7. Duarte Benavente POR F1 Atlantic Team 16 points
8. Bartek Marszalek POL Motorglass F1 Team 16 points
9. Thani Al Qamzi UAE Abu Dhabi Team 14 points
10. Ahmed Al Hameli UAE Abu Dhabi Team 14 points
11. Filip Roms FIN Mad-Croc Baba Racing 13 points