UIM F1H20 World Championship 2011.
Finland's Sami Selio scored 50 of his 94 total points in his final three races of the 2010 season in a brilliant come from behind performance to become only the fifth driver in the history to win a multiple titles while leading his crew to a Team Championship at the same time during this the 30th Anniversary year of the sport.
The 35 year-old driver from Helsinki, lead his Mad Croc F1 Team back from a devestatingly slow start to the season in Portugal where neither he nor his rookie teammate Alex Carella would score a single point at the Grand Prix in Portimao in early May.
They would however, turn their luck around in a big way. First, Sami won the next round in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Alex coming home second for a 1-2 finish. Then, at the next event, they flip flopped with Alex taking his first career victory in round three in Linyi, China in October and Sami second.
Sami's only failure to finish, happened in Liuzhou, China, dropping him behind in the points chase that would take him to the eighth and final round to recapture and securing his second career title at the same time. For the season, Sami had two victories ( St. Petersburg and Abu Dhabi) along with five podiums, including the cruital final event in Sharjah where he would finish second and secure the top rung in the championship.
While Selio has nine career victories in 102 career starts, his teammate for 2010 Alex Carella has a win and four podiums and was named Rookie-of-the-Year after just eight career Grand Prix's. The 24 year-old from Piacenza, Italy who has joined the circuit since moving up from F2, has a bright future ahead of him. Alex's 71 points were enough to secure third place in the drivers championship.
With 168 total points, Mad Croc turned in a dominating Team Points Championship performance dethrowning Team Abu Dhabi who finished second this season with 126 points behind his pair of veteran teammates and friends in Thani Al Qamzi and Ahmad Al Hameli.
The duo, who have been schooled for many season's by four-time World Champion Scott Gillman who is their Team Manager, both finished in the top-six in the championship with Thani taking fourth with 68 points and Ahmad finishing two spots back with 58 points.
The 31 year-old Ahmad had a real roller coaster type of season winning the first and last Grand Prix's of the year (Portugal and Sharjah) while also capturing the Pole Position Award as fastest qualifier. However, his real downfall for a shot at the title came with his four straight mechanical failures in mid-season that took him out of the hunt. Ahmad's win in Sharjah was his third career victory and his first outside of Europe after having won two straight in Portugal.
Thani, who has seemed to be right on the edge of greatness for many years, finished all eight races but reached the podium just three times while searching for a 'comfort zone' in his setup of his DAC boat all season long. The 32 year-old driver has now gone 22 straight races without a victory.
Third in the Team Championship went to the Qatar Team organization, who led by American Jay Price, lost his shot at his second title finishing six points behind Sami at the final event of the season after leading by four points heading into the final event in Sharjah. The 2008 title holder showed more consistancy during the 2010 campaign with a pair of victories (Liuzhou and Doha) and five podiums but his early race crash in Shenzhen in a new DAC boat kept him under pressure for the remainder of the season instead of a dominating position only to fall out of the points lead at the final round.
Jay's 88 points were good enough for the runner-up position and along with Sami, has nine career victories and is currently tied for sixth overall in the history of the sport in just 45 career starts.
Teammate Andy Elliott of Great Britain came back from a devostating crash in 2009 and picked up seven points in the drivers championship with his best effort being a sixth at the opening Grand Prix in Portugal. After two top-10 finishes in a row, Andy struggled the rest of the way finishing just two of the next six races and 16th in the title run at seasons end driving his trusty Dragon boat.
The CTIC China Team with the skillful pair of drivers in Frenchman Philippe Chiappe and Swede Pierre Lundin finished fourth in the championship with 66 points reaching their high water mark at their home Grand Prix in Shenzhen when the duo finished second and third on the podium to the elation of their tens of thousands of adoring fans in late October.
Pierre finished seventh in the championship with 40 points with a podium, three top-five finishes and just one failure to finish. His teammate, Philippe, had two top fives but three failure to finish results gave him eighth in the championship with 26 points. Both are expected back in 2011.
One of the surprising resurgences of the year came from the Singha F1 Racing Team when three time runner-up in the championship Francesco Cantando came back strongly and led the table by 11 points going into the final three races of the season before crashing out early at the Grand Prix in Doha in late November.
The pilot from Milan, Italy was racing at his best for most of the season taking pole at the first round in Portugal and finishing second. After an untimely crash in St. Petersburg, his next three races consisted of a pair of thirds and culminating with a win in Shenzhen moving into first place in the championship. After his mishap in Doha that distroyed his primary boat, he limped home to finish fifth overall in the title with 59 points while failing to start the final event in Sharjah.
Francesco's longtime teammate Marco Gambi faught unsuccessfully all season long to gain any points with his best effort being a 12th in Liuzhou enduring three failures to finish, one crash and one disqualification in his seven race starts.
Team Azerbaijan led by Swedish driver Jonas Andersson was sixth with 35 points failing to gain a podium for the first time in his career in 2010. He saved the best for last however scoring a fourth in Sharjah and finishing the season with 22 points good enough for ninth in the title run.
Marit Stromoy of Norway was once again Andersson's teammate earning four top-10 finishes with a seventh being her best effort for the season in St. Petersburg, Russia. Marit's four mechanical failures didn't help her while finishing 14th in the drivers table with 13 points at season's end.
Brunei driver Ma'arof Mahari joined the team in Linyi for his first taste of F1 qualifying in the 19th position and finishing 12th in a solid first impression in the sport.
The 800 Doctor Team, who finished seventh in the championship with 17 points, welcomed back their owner who had been battling a long illness. Number one driver veteran Fabio Comparato of Chiogga, Italy would have his own struggles taking a disappointing 10th in the drivers championship with 17 points on the strength of a season best fourth in Linyi and four top-10 results in seven race starts.
Teammate Luigi Roberto had his season end prematurely after a hard crash in qualifying at the Grand Prix in Liuzhou, China breaking his arm and sidelining him for the remainder of the campaign and no points after a pair of 11th place finishes in St. Petersburg and Linyi, China.
The F1 Atlantic Team eighth in championship with 15 points was once again led by Portugal's Duarte Benavente. Joining him was German driver Fabian Kalsow and French pilot Philippe Tourre.
Duarte, had a masterful start to season at his home Grand Prix, qualifying third only to drop out in the race with a mechanical issue. This would pretty much sum up his season, finishing just four of the eight races but reaching the top ten for points in three of those four that he completed. His best effort was a seventh place in Linyi.
Fabian struggled to keep his budget alive throughout the season and actually rented out his boat for two races in China. However, when he did race he was impressive, finishing with a fifth in Doha and a pair of seventh place results in Portimao and Sharjah. The driver from Neustadt, Germany was 12th with 15 points in his five starts.
Tourre, returned to the series for the first time since 2008 and finished the final five races of 2010 earning a tenth place in Sharjah for a point and 17th in the drivers points table. His eighth place qualifying effort in Doha was an eye opening performance.
The single boat Rainbow Team entry was ninth with rookie Italian driver Davide Padovan learning from his mentor 1992 World Champion Fabrizzio Bocca. The Vercelli, Italy driver flashed moments of brilliance finishing runner-up in Rookie-of-the-Year honors and 13th in the championship with 14 points. His best day came in Doha, Qatar in late November when he finished seventh. For the season he had six complete events and of those five were in the top-10.
Team Skydive Dubai joined F1 at the midway point of the season with American Tim Seebold racing in the three Grand Prix's in China. The five time North American champ drove two different boats and doing a remarkable job considering he had never sat in either hull prior to the first two Grand Prix's. He qualified ninth and finished a fine sixth place in a DAC boat in Linyi, China, then switched to a BABA boat for the Liuzhou and Shenzhen events taking a fifth and a seventh before ending his season. The driver from St. Louis, Missouri became the third member of the famous Seebold family to race in F1 coming home 11th with 16 points and three top-10 finishes.
Ivan Brigada of Italy, a one-time winner on the tour, was handed the keys to the team's boat at the last round in Sharjah qualifying a strong fourth and dropping out with mechanical failure in the race for zero points.
Team Nautica earned a single point with drivers Rinaldo Osculati and Tomas Cermak in a pair of BABA boats. Tomas gained his first ever F1 point with a 10th place finish in Abu Dhabi while Osculati in six starts came close twice with a pair of back to back 11th place finishes in Doha and Abu Dhabi.
The Pringles Xtreme F1 Racing Team was a one race effort by Russian driver Stanislav Kourtsenovsky who raced his DAC boat at his home Grand Prix in St. Petersburg starting 20th and finishing a strong 10th picking up a single point and tieing for 17th in the drivers championship.
When the 30th Anniversary year since the start of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship had concluded, twelve different teams with drivers from 13 different nations had raced over a third of the way around the globe to determine a new World Champion on water.
Sami Selio of Finland used all of his 13 years of experience to his advantage, fighting his way back from a nine point deficite into the final two races, to capture a world crown. He now has his second World Title in the last four years making him the fifth driver to wear multiple World Championship rings.
As the start of the second decade of the 21st century begins with 2011, can the Helsinki driver once again establish himself as something special in the history of sport?
We are about to find out. The first race of the 2011 UIM F1 H2O season begins in mid-March in Doha, Qatar. Stay tuned.
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