Sunday, December 10: Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson led the Road to Sharjah-Grand Prix of Sharjah from start-to-finish to earn his 14th career victory and add a maiden UIM F1H2O Teams’ Championship title to the second World Drivers’ Championship he secured at the last race.
The dominant Swede reached the finish of a yellow-flag interrupted race 2.452 seconds clear of the Victory Team’s Erik Stark. He also added the UIM F1H2O Fast Lap Trophy to his haul of awards with a best tour of 49.140 seconds. While Andersson was confirming a clean sweep of all four major titles, Stark finished the season as runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi rounded off the podium positions and earned his team the runner-up spot in the Teams’ Championship.
Andersson said: “It has been a very tough season against some big teams. We had a rough start to the season at Lake Toba in Indonesia in practice and I broke the engine in the race. From there, it has been four wins in a row. It is incredible for me and thanks to all the people who have been helping me. We had a perfect set-up and my boys are working really hard. For us, it is incredible to achieve this in this kind of racing with these big teams. I am really happy.”
Stark added: “I think we had a decent season. Coming back after a few years away, I cannot be more happy for my team. I have a perfect boat every race, so my job is quite easy. I won here the last time I came in 2018 and I was second in the championship that year too. Maybe next year we go for the win!”
Peter Morin of the China CTIC Team finished the final round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship in fourth and confirmed third in the overall Drivers’ Championship standings. Morin said: “We finish third in the Teams’ Championship. It has been incredible here, a great race and thanks to my team for their hard work this year.”
Andersson’s team-mate Kalle Viippo was fifth and added valuable points to Team Sweden’s tally, while Marit Strømøy gave the new Mercury four-stroke V8-engined DAC a best finish of the season with sixth.
With Alberto Comparato and Brent Dillard sidelined after a dramatic collision that forced a yellow flag nine laps from the end, Comparato’s team-mate Brock Cohen came home in seventh and Briton’s Ben Jelf earned a career-best finish with eighth and collected his first World Championship points. Early season leader Bartek Marszalek was ninth and Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi rounded off the top 10.
The Maverick Racing duo of Cédric Deguisne and Alexandre Bourgeot finished outside the points in 11th and 12th and Jelf’s F1 Atlantic Team colleague Duarte Benavente was 13th.
Road to Sharjah-Grand Prix of Sharjah
Eighteen of the 21 boats lined up for the start of the 32-lap race on Khalid Lagoon. The violent coming together between Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente and Mad Croc Gillman Racing’s Filip Roms in Saturday’s second sprint race sidelined both racers and the Victory Team’s Ahmad Al-Fahim was suspended as a result of a yellow card for his driving that caused the collision.
Speaking from the pits just before the race, Torrente said: “I feel bad for Al-Fahim. He made a mistake. We give each other so much trust at the front of the field. I went in there hard and Roms got collected and I ended up in the hospital. Jonas and I had a great battle in qualifying. It was fun. I am blessed to be standing here. I had lunch with the team today. The hybrid neck restraint I used saved my life. The black eye, I will take..”
Andersson and Viippo started from first and second positions on the pontoon and Ferdinand Zandbergen - Andersson’s only rival for the Fast Lap Trophy – was third and lined up ahead of Trask and Stark. Comparato, Deguisne and Bourgeot had changed engines and started near the rear of the field in 15th, 16th and 17th, with Dillard at the back in 18th.
Stark got the jump on the rest of the field but Andersson managed to hold his line and maintain his lead from Grant Trask, Stark and Zandbergen, but Viippo dropped back to fifth. Andersson began to stretch his legs and he pulled 5.338 seconds clear of the Australian through three laps. Dillard managed to climb from 18th to 12th heading into lap five.
Andersson had already caught the back-markers by lap six but was showing no mercy to his rivals and maintained a constant pace to stay well clear of Trask, Stark, Zandbergen, Viippo, Morin, Al-Qamzi, Cohen, Marszalek and Comparato. All 18 boats were still in the race.
The World Champion kept the pedal to the metal and increased his lead to 13.033 seconds after one-third of the race, although Trask was losing power and coming under pressure from both Stark and Zandbergen in the battle for second place, with the latter two tussling for the runner-up spot in the World Championship.
Stark managed to overtake Trask and snatched second place, as Zandbergen was forced to pull out with electrical gremlins and Trask ceded third to Morin and was then passed by Viippo. The Australian plummeted out of contention soon afterwards, as Al-Qamzi and Cohen climbed into fifth and sixth. Slower traffic cost Andersson valuable time and the Swede came under pressure from Stark with the gap just 1.336 seconds as the race reached its half-way point after 16 laps.
The two Swedes continued to vie for top spot as the race headed into lap 21, although the World Champion edged over three seconds ahead on the next lap. Two-time World Champion Sami Seliö had already been forced out with a loss of engine power when Comparato barrel-rolled his boat after colliding with Dillard on the far side of the circuit with nine laps still to run. Both boats were damaged in the incident and were removed from the circuit under a yellow-flag. Comparato was taken to hospital for medical checks and was released shortly afterwards.
Action resumed on lap 29 with just four laps remaining. Andersson held off his rivals to maintain the lead and began to edge away from the Victory Team driver. The Swede stormed away to snatch his 14th career GP victory by 2.452 seconds. Stark secured second place and Al-Qamzi passed Morin to snatch the final podium place for Team Abu Dhabi.