H2O Racing
Union Internationale Motonautique


April 18, 2024


Thursday, April 18:  Last week, we took a look into the career of four-time UIM F1H2O World Champion Scott Gillman and his numerous tussles and tangles with Italy’s Guido Cappellini that have now moved on to competing against each other as team managers rather than drivers.


This week, we take a look at the career of the legendary driver from Como, who amassed a record-breaking 10 World Championship titles between 1993 and 2009 and has a record in the sport that may never be surpassed. The G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) won 62 Grand Prix, claimed 70 pole positions and 104 podium finishes.


In a life dominated by racing across a wide spectrum of disciplines, Cappellini was born in Mariano Comense in 1959 and started out racing karts to a level where he secured a pair of 135cc Italian titles and similar 135cc European success. He then attracted the attention of the Pastorino F3 Team and switched to single-seater racing, where he learned the vital techniques of balance and machine control at high speed.


At the age of just 14, his father - growing tired of his poor academic results - had sent Guido to obtain an apprenticeship at the boat yard run by Angelo Molinari, the father of racer Renato and one of Guido’s idols. With his new boss’s permission, a young and excited Guido was able to learn the intricacies of boat building and mechanics and put his new-found knowledge into action whenever he could on the water. Suitably impressed by his obvious talent, Molinari and Renato (F1H2O World Champion in 1981, 1983 and 1984), put Guido into an F4 Molinari boat.


He prevailed in the 1983 6 Hours of Paris and the 100 Miglia del Lario and finished fifth in the 1985 F3 Inshore World Championship, before moving into the world of F3000 and F1H2O the following season. Guido finished 17th and 19th in his two debut seasons in 1986 and 1987 in the respective F1H2O and Fonda Formula Grand Prix series.


For a couple of seasons, the World Grand Prix replaced F1H2O Stateside and Cappellini competed for DAC Racing in Europe. Then the F1H2O World Championship re-emerged in 1990, although he picked up the unenviable nickname of ‘Crashellini’ even before his spectacular crash in a race at Bristol Docks. The talented young Italian went on to finished eighth, sixth and fifth in the series between 1990 and 1992, during three seasons where the late John Hill, Jonathan Jones and Fabrizio Bocca claimed the prestigious title.


Cappellini’s first crowning glory came in 1993 - in the final season when the championship was overseen by David Parkinson before his successful handover to H2O Racing’s founder Nicoló di San Germano and the beginning of a new ongoing era of international powerboat racing. The Italian claimed a maiden world title and he repeated the feat for the next three years after a remarkable run of consistent and determined racing.


Gillman prevailed in his debut season in 1997 and Cappellini, Gillman and Massimo Roggiero were no match for Jones in 1998. But Cappellini decimated the opposition before the turn of the century to win the eight-round 1999 World Championship by a staggering 80 points in his Laserline Racing DAC, courtesy of six race wins in Portugal, Italy, France, Hungary, Austria and Abu Dhabi and a pair of runner-up spots in Russia and Turkey.


After narrowly missing out to Gillman in 2000, Cappellini began a second run of world titles with success over the hard-pushing Francesco Cantando in 2001 while racing under the Assicom Team banner. He then followed that success with his seventh and eighth triumphs in 2002 and 2003 against the likes of Laith Pharaon, Gillman and Cantando.  Gillman and Cappellini traded titles in 2004 and 2005 and Gillman and Sami Seliö got the better of the Italian over the following two seasons with the Italian now racing under the Tamoil F1 Team banner.


But Cappellini still had his sights set on a record-breaking 10th title. He endured a disastrous run of form in 2008 with the Tamoil F1 Team DAC and finished down in 10th in the Drivers’ Championship after a single race win in Finland and five retirements.


But the dream was fulfilled the following year – 2009 – when H2O Racing opted to run two Grand Prix at each of the race meetings for the first time and, hence, had a 16-race calendar. The season started poorly for the Zepter Team driver with a solitary point from the opening two races in Portugal but a win and a fourth followed in Finland. However, Cappellini headed to the third round in St. Petersburg trailing Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi by 23 points.


Failing to pick up anything for his efforts in Russia was a bitter blow for the Italian and he arrived in China - for four races in Liuzhou and Shenzhen - struggling to keep pace with Al-Qamzi, Seliö, the defending World Champion Jay Price and a young up-and-coming Jonas Andersson.


Thirty-nine points and a retirement followed in China but the Italian really leapt into title contention at the Qatar Grand Prix on Doha Bay. Price suffered a pair of costly DNFs, Al-Qamzi earned a second and a fourth but Cappellini picked up a priceless 40 points for back-to-back-wins. He maintained that form into the two races off the Breakwater in Abu Dhabi and was able to snatch that elusive and coveted 10th world title in Sharjah with a pair of third places to pip Al-Qamzi, Seliö and Price at the post. The goal had been fulfilled and the Italian announced his retirement from the championship.


While Gillman headed into the world of team management, Cappellini switched to other racing disciplines before following his old adversary into a management role. He has now achieved numerous F1H2O, F2, F4 and endurance world titles as a team manager with the likes of Alex Carella, Shaun Torrente, Rashed Al-Tayer and Rashed Al-Qemzi. As recently as 2022, Team Abu Dhabi, under his management, claimed a clean sweep of the UIM F1H2O Drivers’, Pole Position, Fast Lap and Teams’ titles.


Inducted into the ‘Hall of Fame’ in 2017, Guido also held the FIM world speed record on water for a run of 256.26km/h set on Lake Iseo in 2005.


Cappellini and Gillman will resume their rivalry as team managers at the forthcoming Grand Prix of Italy in Olbia on June 14/16.