INCLUDING VIDEO CLIP
Alex Carella is the winner of Round 2 of the 2017 UIM F1 World Championship held in the Spa Resort of Evian-Les-Bains on the southern shore of Lac Leman
Looking out over Europe’s highest alpine lake and the Swiss town of Lausanne on the opposite side to the French spa resort of Evian-Les-Bains from our 6th floor room balcony at the Hilton Hotel we could clearly see that had this been an offshore grand prix, the white horses and a heaving swell would have made perfect conditions for an exciting weekend’s racing. However, these were far from ideal conditions for Formula One catamarans and we waited in hope that the wind would subside long enough to begin the racing programme for the second grand prix of the season. The official schedule was to be Free Practice on Friday (30th June), more Free Practice and Qualifying on Saturday (1st July), and the Grand Prix of France on Sunday (2nd July). Needless to say rough water ruled out any on-water activity on Friday or Saturday, however, as if by a miracle, the lake was like glass on Sunday and so practice, qualifying and the main event was all crammed into a very packed day’s programme.
The two days of inactivity gave us an opportunity to discover the town of Evian which is globally reknowned for its bottled water. We learned that 7 million bottles are produced a day and shipped to 175 countries worldwide, and the company employs over 1000 people which represents a high proportion of the town’s population. With the cancellation of any on-water action the next day drivers had the chance to let their hair down at the Evian Casino when the town hosted a splendid Gala Dinner to launch the programme of events. With on-water activity suspended the public were given the rare opportunity to stroll through the dry pits for an hour on Saturday where they probably were unaware that they were rubbing shoulders with at least seven former and current world champions including a true powerboat legend Renato Molinari, the world’s most successful circuit racer who is now in his 70s. Ten-times world champion Guido Cappellini is retired and manages the Abu Dhabi team, American Scott Gillman now manages the Dubai based Victory team, Jonathan Jones from Cardigan, Wales owns Dragon Powerboats and is now F1 commentator, Sami Selio from Finland races in Mad Croc Team, Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella and the reigning world champion Philippe Chiappe, all at one event.
World Champions from the past – from Wales Jonathan Jones and from Italy the great Renato Molinari
Twenty teams were in attendance at the Grand Prix of France, and a craft that was attracting considerable attention was Francesco Cantando’s brand new Blaze cat. It’s construction had only been completed a week or two before the Evian race, so had little or no testing time. However, it does look very different to DAC, BaBa and Moore cats, and we were looking forward to see how it would perform. The boat finished 10th which was not a bad result for a brand new and untested boat. On the opposite side of the pit lane was a three boat line-up of Maverick outfits headed by Cedric Deguisne. His team mates are relative newcomers to F1, Robart Beranger and Jousseaume Amaury, and few expected any podium places from these two on this occasion.
A brand new Blaze outfit for Francesco Cantando
One of the favourites for victory was Victory’s Shaun Torrente, but during free practice he stuck a pickle fork in a rogue swell and his Moore hull performed a slow barrel-roll. Thankfully, Victory’s ace Mercury engineer Ron Andersson got to work when the stricken cat was hauled ashore and by race time Torrente was ready to join the grid albeit in 15th place.
Shaun Torrente rescued by Osprey during practice
Reigning World Champion Philippe Chiappe from Rouen had hoped to keep his home fans happy as the previous two years at Evian have resulted in retirements. Unfortunately, this year was no exception and he broke down again whilst he was lying in second place behind Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella who maintained a healthy lead throughout the entire 45 lap race.
After early morning briefing it was down to business and with the top six shoot-out being abandoned due to lack of time, the top 6 on the grid were established in qualifying. Australia’s Grant Trask was first off and completed just a handful of laps on smooth water which allowed him to claim 5th place on the grid. Alex Carella was on Pole ahead of Philippe Chiappe, Mad Croc Sami Selio, Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi and Australian Grant Trask. As the red lights were switched off, Carella stormed into the lead chased by Chiappe and within three circuits they were lapping the rookie tail-enders.
As in Portugal, concern was raised over the new lead-free fuel that appears to cause engine problems, but in Evian retirements were not that many. Robart Beranger departed after three laps and Chiappe went after 17 circuits. Poland’s Bartek Marszalek dropped out on lap 19 followed by German Mike Szymura two laps later. In the meantime, it was a battle at the front with Carella leading the way, Selio chasing hard in second place and Torrente had battled his way from the back to be sitting comfortably in 3rd place ahead of his Victory team mate Ahmed Al Hameli.
Rashed Al Qemzi
Nine drivers completed the full 45 laps while Cantando’s new outfit occupied 10th place on 44 laps. Abu Dhabi’s F2 pilot Rashed Al Qemzi, who is looking increasingly like a potential F1 world champion, finished in 12th place, but appeared to hang back while his cousin Thani Al Qemzi finished in 6th place.
This was probably not one of the most classic of F1 races, but all credit goes to the organisers for getting a full programme in, including practice, qualifying and the GP of France all in a day. We understand F1 H2o have signed a three year contract with the Evian promoter and hopefully Lac Lamon will be tranquil for all of the three days which is what is normally required for a F1 GP.
Although the championship is still in its early stages, Sami Selio heads the points table on 30 points, one more than second place Alex Carella, with Philippe Chiappe ten points behind in third place. The next GP is in Harben, China, a happy hunting ground for Ahmed Al Hameli as he clinched his first victory for two years at the Chinese venue.