CAPITAL RETURNS FOR F1H20 POWERBOAT RACING THIS WEEKEND AS REGENERATION PLANS ENSURE 2019 EVENT TO BE STAGED IN LONDON
Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for F1H2O
Ticket sales have been superb and the teams are getting ready for another weekend of top racing as the UIM F1H2O World Championship returns to London for the first time since 1985.
The flagship series of international single-seater inshore circuit powerboat racing will be held this weekend at Royal Victoria Dock, headlining this year’s London Tech Week, Europe’s largest festival of technology and innovation, with a range of events held across the city from 11-17 June.
Heading the line-up of 20 drivers from 12 countries is championship leader Shaun Torrente who will be looking to build on his perfect start to the season in Portimao at the Grand Prix of Portugal in May, qualifying in pole position and leading home Thani Al Qemzi to complete a Team Abu Dhabi one-two.
Championship leader Torrente said: “I’m really excited about this weekend. I am in Italy for final preparations. I have a brand new boat in Italy that is identical to my race boat and we are going to test some new propellers for the course.
It’s going to be amazing to be in London, with all the history and the culture and the large fan base, but the racecourse is going to be very different for us drivers. It’s more like I used to race in the United States with long straights and one-pin turns. I’ve had a lot of experience with that.
That is the positive, but the negative is it’s a bit less fun because the course is less technical. The hard thing is getting the boats that are no longer designed to go on such long straights to handle at high speeds on the long straights. The plan was to work on that over two or three days before heading to London. We are happy where we are and I, personally, want to go for another win.”
Leading the impressive list of challengers looking to halt the Abu Dhabi juggernaut is three-time world champion Philippe Chiappe who sits in third place in the points, with his CTIC F1 Shenzhen China teammate Peter Morin in fifth and splitting the Victory Team duo, defending and four-time world champion Alex Carella and Ahmed Al Hameli.
After dramatically taking each other out of contention in the early stages of the season-opener Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson and Emirates Racing’s Marit Stromoy will be aiming to get their title challenges back on track and bank their first points of the season.
Mad Croc BABA Racing’s two-time world champion Sami Selio is another looking to get his season up and running after what he described as a disastrous first race and is optimistic that the team has resolved the engine issues that prevented him from starting and side-lined teammate Filip Roms after nine laps.
Maverick Racing will run a third boat with Norwegian Mette Brandt Bjerknaes joining Cedric Deguisne’s French outfit, the 29-year-old stepping up from F2 and Endurance Racing to make her F1H2O debut and swelling the ranks of women competing in the top-flight of circuit racing to three, joining her fellow countrywomen Stromoy and Germany’s Simone Schuft.
Chinese investment company Tian Rong Sports has announced that they are working with the British government to establish an entrepreneurial creative centre for sports, science and technology in East London with work already started on the site.
Mr. Li Haojie, Chairman of Tian Rong Sports, commented: “This event will mark the first time that a Chinese company has promoted and underwritten a sporting event outside of China.
We have made a long-term commitment to London, with a multi-year deal signed to keep bringing F1H2O to this country in the future.
Technological advances, particularly in the design, composition and aerodynamics of the Formula 1 boats, are ultimately responsible for the continued growth and development of the sport.
We hope that the sport can continue its development with the modern high-tech means that are available in this country.”
Having enjoyed success promoting F1H2O in China, Tian Rong are hoping that bringing such a global event to East London will raise the popularity and influence of the area, as well as stimulating the economy.
Mr Haojie continued: “This is a high-speed, high-tech and fashionable event. It has a strongmedia value but it also has a story to tell about future technology. This event is the right opportunity for us. We want to use the experience of promoting an event in London to expand F1 powerboating into Australia, USA and many other countries in the next year.”
Tian Rong has previously invested in China’s infrastructure, including highway roads, power plants, and petroleum equipment, as well as setting up a sports industry investment fund with former basketball player Yao Ming. Through this fund, they have invested in 20 sports-related events, sports technologies and esports.
Drivers will get their first opportunity to acclimatise to the tricky conditions they are likely to face on the tight three-pin 1.72km Royal Victoria Dock oval circuit with an extra free practice session at 15:00hrs on Friday. The first official practice session is at 10:15hrs on Saturday and followed by BRM Official Qualifying at 15:30hrs, with the final practice session of the weekend at 10:15 on Sunday and the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of London starting at 15:00hrs.
The UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of London will mark the tenth time that Great Britain has hosted a round of the championship; the nine previous rounds were staged at Holme Pierrepont (1981 & 1982); Bristol (1982 & 1990); London (1983, 1984 & 1985); and Cardiff (1993 & 1994).