As the UIM F1 H2O World Championship Series gets ready to power its way into the start of its fourth decade of competition at the Grand Prix of Qatar in less than three weeks time, it is clear that the history of the sport has been developed thru the mutual contribution and talents of Italians and Americans in making this sport the most technological as well as entertaining on water anywhere in the world.
When the opening Grand Prix on Doha Bay takes flight on the fifth of March, it will mark the 235th event since it’s first official race in June of 1981 in Como, Italy. The event that day was won by an Italian driver (Renato) Molinari driving an Italian boat powered by an American (OMC) engine. Since this creation everyone of the Grand Prix winners have been powered by American engines led by Italian drivers who have won 101 Grand Prix’s with the USA drivers sitting second with 52 victories.
Italian Grand Prix World Champions include Guido Cappellini with 10 titles and 62 career victories, Renato Molinari owning three titles and 16 victories and Fabrizio Bocca with a title in 1992 and a pair of wins. In total seven different Italians have won Grand Prix’s in their careers.
The Americans who have been right in the mix of the marriage between boat builder and engine provider have a great history in their own right with a record setting 10 different drivers winning races with recent retiree Scott Gillman of California leading the pack, having won 23 times in just 89 starts taking the title four times in his decade long career that ended in 2007.
A pair of the State of Louisiana drivers, firstly, Gene Thibodaux winning the title in 1986 in the then common V8 450 plus horsepower hull, followed more recently by New Orleans driver Jay Price who has a world title in 2008 and has nine victories in just 45 starts in his short career.
Jay, the defending winner at his home circuit in Doha, will be joined this season by friend and last years Rookie-of-the-Year winner, Italian Alex Carella, who finished third in the title chase just behind Price and looks forward to driving a DAC boat for the first time in his Grand Prix career.
“I’m excited about racing with Qatar Team this season and Jay and I look forward to spending time with the whole crew this season,” said the 24 year-old. “We have top talent top to bottom and I know Jay and I will push each other to the limit this year which can only make each of us better in the end.”
While the discussion thus far has been an Italian-American connection for success, more recently Finnish talent has flourished as well with defending World Champion Sami Selio of Helsinki teaming up this season with longtime friend and talented driver Massimo Roggiero of Italy who maybe the premiere mastermind boat builder in the world developing his ultra popular BABA designed hulls just outside the Milan airport in the Northwest section of the city.
Sami, who had a remarkable title winning performance in 2007 came from behind last season and won at the very end with a second place performance at the final round in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to secure his second title in the last four years. His nine career victories combined with retired Finnish driver Pertti Leppala gives Finland now 11 in the past 12 years.
Great Britain, who has four different World Title holders, is also a power in the sports history sitting third in overall victories with 31, but hasn’t tasted the fruits of success since Jonathan Jones won his last title in Abu Dhabi during the 1998 campaign.
The Dutch have nine wins courtesy of Cess van der Velden and Arthur Mostert, with the UAE now sixth and getting stronger all the time with current Team Abu Dhabi teammates Ahmad Al Hameli and Thani Al Qamzi combining for eight. Germany is next on the list with talented driver Michael Werner scoring seven victories in his short F1 career.
The truly international field of drivers with 12 different nations represented by drivers who have won UIM F1 H2O World Championship Series Grand Prix’s over the years is expected to once again line-up a talent filled field of pilots as the season unveils for the start of it’s fourth decade of competition on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of March and the Ninth Grand Prix of Qatar.