The 2008 season of the U.I.M. F1 World Championship for power boating maybe only two races into it’s schedule, but it is already becoming a stage where records are being broken at such a dizzying pace that it’s time to stop and catch our breath and see what this all means to this three decade old sport.
From its very beginnings on Lake Como in northern Italy in 1981, these F1 power boats which happen to be the fastest turning race vehicles on water, have always attracted large fields of international drivers that are like a rainbow of colors streaking across the water reaching speeds of 225 kph (140 mph) in their quest for fame and glory.
This spring is no different with 23 pilots from 13 different nations lining up for the first practice session at the Grand Prix of Doha with your eventual winner coming from Sweden in his first career victory in Jonas Andersson of the F1 Team Sweden group. The native of Fruvi, is not the first Swedish driver to win however, as Bertil Wik won for the first time in that nation’s history back in 1985, followed by Anders Andersson in 1992 and 1994 and by Goran Karlof in 1998. So you see there is a bit of Nordic history to this sport with four different pilots scoring 5 different wins for Swedish pride.
But this is only a small chapter in a very large book in this sport. When New Orleans, Louisiana driver Jay Price won a few weeks ago for the first time at the Grand Prix of Portugal for his Qatar Race Team, he joined a long list of American’s who now have 11 total drivers having won 47 victories in the history of the U.I.M. series. This is the most of any country with the Seebold relatives of father Bill and son Michael winning in the same year in 1994 being the only family to ever accomplish the feat.
Scott Gillman of the Team Abu Dhabi group has been the most successful American ever to drive in this international series having won four-World Championship and winning 23 times in just over 10 years of competition. Ex-World Champion Ben Robertson (5), along with Barry Woods (4), Gene Thibodaux (3 and another Ex-champ), Bill Seebold (2) and Felix Serralles (2) are multiple time winners as well.
While the Americans have the most different winners, the Italians have the most victories with 90 total wins split between nine different drivers since 1981. Nine-time World Champion Guido Cappellini has added to his record setting numbers having won more than any other driver having taken victory 56 times in his 19 years of racing on the tour. Cappellini’s mentor and childhood idol Renato Molinari won 16 of the series first 34 events back in the early 1980’s while current driver Francesco Cantando of Milan has the third highest number as an Italian with 11. Massimo Roggiero (3), ex-champ Fabrizio Bocca (2) and Enrico Vidoli (2) are also multi-time winners for the tri-colours of Italia.
A total of 12 different nations have been represented by winning drivers since 1981. Some interesting thoughts along the way see that The Netherlands have nine victories between the late Cees van der Velden who had eight and countryman Arthur Mostert. Their last victory however was back in 1986.
Great Britain, who once was a dominate player in the series hasn’t reached the top step with a winner since Welshman Jonathan Jones took home his final win and his final World Championship in Abu Dhabi over 10 years ago. Of the 32 victories the island nation has accumulated seven of these come from different drivers winning including World Championships for Roger Jenkins (1982), Bob Spaulding (1985), Jon Hill (1990) and Jones (1991 & 1998). The high water mark for their involvement came during the two seasons of 1990 and 1991 when both years saw three different drivers won races for the U.K.
Germany once played an important roll in the sport led by Kerpen driver Michael Werner who collected seven victories in four different seasons with his last win coming in 1995. An aggressive push to get more young people involved is starting to make good progress in the country that loves its water sports.
Newcomers to the sport such as the United Arab Emirates have Thani Al Qamzi to thank for their three victories, along with Saudi Arabia who had recently retired pilot Laith Pharon win one each in 2000, 2001 and 2002 proving that the GCC countries are a future strength to the sport.
The next hosts to the championship, Finland, have five victories including three to their defending World Champion in Sami Selio of the Woodstock Red Devil Racing Team a year ago. Pertti Leppala, an ex-speed skiing champion from Helsinki has a pair also in 1998 and 2000.
Russia (Victor Kunitch), France (Philippe Dessertenne) and Australia (Craig Bailey) have all joined the active members of being winners on a truly international scale as the 2008 U.I.M. F1 World Championship for power boating next heads for it’s thirrd race of the season to the 4th Grand Prix of Finland in lovely Lahti on the weekend of the 7th and 8th of June.
So the next time you see a driver in the winners circle, you will now understand that most likely he follows a grand tradition with drivers from all over the world wanting to be called for over 30 years F1 World Champion no matter what continent he or she may live on!