After a season with Scott Gillman’s Team Emirates, former four times world F2 champion Erik Stark moved to fellow Swede Jonas Andersson’s Team Sweden at the beginning of 2017, and the change appears to have shifted his fortunes as Stark swept to a convincing win in the third round of the 2017 F1 World Championship. The World F2 second round in Tonsberg boasted a VIP guest in the shape of Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg while in Harbin royalty was welcomed, when Princess Anne’s son Peter Philips was guest of the Chinese promoter Mr Li.
Photo: Thani Al Qemzi, Eric Stark, Team Sweden’s radio girl Jane Persson, and Ahmed Al Hameli – Photographer: Arek Rejs
The crowds at Harbin in the main grandstand – Photographer: Arek Rejs
As the teams arrived at this northern outpost of China at the Hulan Estuary Wetlands Park race track, Finland’s Sami Selio headed the championship table, but after crashing in qualifying and retiring in the early stages of the China race, the Finn has now dropped down the table to second behind new leader, Alex Carella, Abu Dhabi’s Italian pilot.
Stark started from pole position after an exciting qualifying session and was never headed throughout the accident free race. Victory’s Ahmed Al Hameli kept up his form from the previous two rounds and looked comfortable in the bronze medal berth although he was pressurised by Carella for much of the race, but the Italian, who finished fourth, could not overhaul the Victory driver. Ahmed’s long time partner when they were both in the Abu Dhabi team, Thani Al Qamzi drove a superb race, and although he never troubled Stark’s lead, he filled the runner-up berth making it a valuable 2nd and 4th for the Abu Dhabi team.
So far reigning champion Philippe Chiappe has not quite been the dominant force he has enjoyed over the past two years, but nevertheless he occupied 5th place in his Moore outfit. Chiappe’s engineer Alex Hedin feels sure there is a minor fuel problem in the boat which is starving the engine of gas and hopes to resolve it before the next race. Stark’s team mate Jonas Andersson filled 6th place and was the only driver not to be lapped by the leaders, while Poland’s Bart Marszalak of Team Blaze is proving to be a consistent top ten driver since the beginning of 2017. Mad Croc’s Filip Roms kept the Finish flag flying with his 9th place at the venue where he was taken out last term by Carella as the young Fin was leading the race.
Victory at Harbin for Eric Stark – Photographer: Vittorio Obertone
Victory’s Shaun Torrente, always a threat for a podium spot, was sidelined early in the race when it appeared his engine quit, whilst Norway’s Marit Stromoy was DQ’d for hitting a turn buoy which dislodged it and in turn resulted in the yellow flags being deployed.
Abu Dhabi’s third driver Rashid Al Qemzi, who currently leads the world F2 table, is finding F1 more difficult, but still managed 11th place, and it will not be long before this diminutive pilot climbs onto the F1 podium.
Third on the podium Ahmed Al Hameli – Photographer: Vittorio Obertone
Although it’s early days with the series now at the half way stage after Portugal, France and Harbin, the 2017 championship is shaping up to be a thrilling battle between the top six drivers who are all potential champions. Three races and three different winners, but reigning champion Chiappe still has more than enough time to retain his top spot, and Carella looks hungry to add another gold medal to his impressive three world titles. He and Thani Al Qamzi look like they could collect the team trophy which would put a smile on team manager Guido Cappellini’s face, although arch rival Scott Gillman is hoping his strong two boat Victory team of Al Hameli and Torrente are more than capable of the team award. At this stage Team Sweden can’t be ruled out with Stark finding his true form at last, and Jonas Andersson is never far from the front.
Sami Selio leads Francesco Cantando driving the new Blaze cat – Photographer: Vittorio Obertone
After the Harbin race all drivers said how hot it was in the cramped cockpits as this northern venue in China is also renowned for the extreme cold during the winter months.
Round 4 of the 2017 F1 H2o UIM World Championship is at Luiszou, China, one of the most popular race circuits in China which has been developed as a Watersports Centre and business park.