Sunday, July 2: Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson extended his lead in the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship to 15 points with an impressive victory in the Grand Prix of France on the River Saône in Mâcon on Sunday afternoon.
Once pole-sitter Shaun Torrente had been disqualified for a course infringement after missing a turn buoy, the Swede won the yellow-flag interrupted race on the short course by 2.3 seconds to put him firmly in control of the Drivers’ Championship in advance of the next round in Sardinia in September. Andersson’s 12th career win and 29th podium finish also means that Team Sweden leads the Sharjah Team by three points in the UIM F1H2O Teams’ Championship.
Andersson said: “I am really happy because the weekend didn’t start so good and I was not so fast. In the end we find the speed. I was really disappointed yesterday when I lost the pole position in the last 20 seconds. But Shaun made a mistake today and I didn’t and I am really happy!”
Dutch racer Ferdinand Zandbergen shadowed the Swede to the finish to collect points for second place for the Sharjah Team and the result means he moves up to third in the championship, a mere point behind the Victory Team’s Erik Stark, who finished the race in fifth place. Zandbergen said: “When I saw Shaun spin I knew second place was mine. All I had to do was nothing stupid.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi confirmed the final place on the podium and the CTIC China Team’s Peter Morin finished fourth. The Frenchman’s team-mate Brent Dillard guided his new Brendan Power-tuned Moore hull to sixth place and vital championship points. The Australian duo of Grant Trask and Brock Cohen delivered impressive displays to reach the chequered flag in seventh and eighth overall, while the Victory Team’s Ahmed Al-Fahim and Maverick Racing’s Alexandre Bourgeot rounded off the top 10.
Out of the points in 11th and 12th were the F1 Atlantic Team duo of Duarte Benavente and Ben Jelf, while Bartek Marszalek struggled with his boat set-up all weekend and was classified in 13th and last of the finishers.
Grand Prix of France
Torrente, Andersson and Zandbergen fronted the rolling start for the third round of the UIM F1H2O World Championship, while engine changes for Grant Trask, Kalle Viippo and Marszalek meant they started at the rear of the field in 18th, 19th and 20th positions.
Fifty laps of the fast two-pin course lay ahead and Torrente made a good start to stay clear of Andersson in warm, cloudy conditions> He began to pull away from Andersson and Zandbergen. But the American missed a turn buoy and his error handed Andersson the lead, with Zandbergen and Morin in second and third and the Team Abu Dhabi driver down in fourth in choppy water on the narrow course.
Local driver and race organiser Cédric Deguisne dropped to the rear of the field and stopped before the yellow flag was raised. His demise and the resultant delay while the boat was removed from the course bunched up the leading pack before action resumed on lap 11. Two-time World Champion Sami Seliö suffered boat damage for the second successive race and was forced to withdraw after seven laps. The Finn later discovered that his pickle fork had come off and the sponson had started to fill with water.
Andersson managed to stay out in front, but Morin lost time in the corner, slipped to sixth and Torrente moved up to third behind Zandbergen. Dillard and Alberto Comparato held fourth and fifth, as three-time World Champion Torrente dramatically pulled off the course and plummeted out of contention and the race was yellow-flagged when Filip Roms flipped his Mad Croc Gillman Racing boat out of contention and a second yellow flag was raised. Torrente had circled around the turn buoy that he’d missed: that contravened race regulations and the Florida driver was disqualified.
Racing resumed on lap 21 with Andersson leading from Zandbergen, Dillard, Comparato and Al-Qamzi and 16 boats still in the race. The leader maintained his advantage but the beneficiary of the restart was Al-Qamzi and the Emirati stormed into third behind Zandbergen. But Comparato hooked his boat and spun into the path of a hard-charging Marit Strømøy at the turn and both boats suffered sponson damage, the incident forcing a third restart.
The resumption of racing came on lap 27 with 14 boats still in the running. Andersson continued to lead but Dillard dropped behind a flying Brock Cohen and slipped to seventh, with Zandbergen, Al-Qamzi, Morin and Stark shadowing the leading Swede.
Andersson and Zandbergen continued to edge further away from Al-Qamzi, as Dillard repassed Cohen to grab sixth. The fastest lap of the race enabled Trask to also pass fellow Australian Cohen to gain seventh place but Andersson’s team-mate Kalle Viippo pulled out on lap 34.
Heading into the final four laps, Andersson led Zandbergen by two seconds and the Swede held on to seal the win with Zandbergen, Al-Qamzi, Morin and Stark rounding off the top five.