Italian three-time World Champion Alex Carella thought he gave the “new look” Team Abu Dhabi organization their first victory at the 19th Grand Prix of France but the victory party was shortened dramatically after the UIM officials deemed his setup was not according to the rules, thus handing Kuwaiti driver Youssef Al Rubayan his first victory in dramatic fashion.
The race, run in front of tens thousands along the southern banks of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) at the second round of the 2015 UIM F1 H2O World Championship for powerboating looked at first like it was going to be a story book ending for defending World Champion and French citizen Philippe Chiappe.
The pilot from Rouen jumped immediately into the lead from pole position and led Carella and the rest of the field for 16 of the 34 lap event until he came to a sudden stop on the circuit.
“We felt we had the strongest package in the paddock and it was going the way we planned until the flywheel let go leaving us dead in the water and no points on the weekend,” said the new French hero.
“I feel sorry that we couldn’t deliver the victory for the thousands that were cheering for us but through all this bad news, the good news is, we still think we have the package to beat anyone on any weekend this season. So, we’ll try to reverse our bad luck when we head to Porto, Portugal in a months time.”
The second huge surprise came when another multiple time world champion in Finnish star Sami Selio of the Mad Croc Baba Team who battled his way from fifth off the dock and fighting his way to the runner-up position thinking he had just gained 15 valuable championship points until….he was given a one lap penalty after the officials penalized for destroying a buoy on the circuit sending him off the podium and down to fifth place in the order.
Third and reaching the podium for the first time in his young career was Finnish driver Filip Roms, Selio’s teammate on the Mad Croc Baba Team after qualifying 10th earning his second top five finish in his 17 race career.
Swedish driver Jonas Andersson moves up to second in his Team Sweden Molgaard boat finishing on the podium for the second straight race in France dating back to his third place finish in La Rochelle back in 2007 and now is tied for second in the championship points race with Al Rubayan with 24 points.
The race took another turn when on the 25th lap out of the 34 scheduled, Swede Erik Stark of the Emirates Team was caught from behind as he tried to hold off the charging Francesco Cantando of Italy who had managed to move up 10 positions while looking for sixth when he and Stark came together going into turn five spinning Stark out after hitting his engine cowling and the Motorglass F1 driver barrel rolling to a stop ending both their days.
As the clean-up continued the race ended under a yellow flag when it was impossible to get the safety personnel and the course cleared in the allotted time before the completed 34 laps.
Fourth was hard luck driver Shaun Torrente who came into the race leading the drivers championship with 20 points and looking like he would have at least 15 more in his back pocket but the Victory Team driver ended in fourth after he slowed during the pace boat period and with a clogged engine fuel filter ended up limping his way to a fourth place finish but still leading the championship with 29 points.
“I’ve been saying all week that we just wanted to get a top five finish and we got it today,” said the driver from Florida. “We were hoping for the win, but in the end we are still on top heading to Porto.”
Young Jesper Forss of Team Sweden who started ninth took a well earned sixth despite almost barrel rolling going into a corner early on in the event and losing a lot of time in process.
Polish driver Bartek Marzsalek pushing up from the back of the starting order from the 16th position for the Motorglass F1 Team finished a fine seventh place at the end of the day, while a pair of French drivers scored the final championship points in their first race of the season.
Cedric Deguisne in the Team Maverick boat was eighth after qualifying 13th and newcomer Christophe Larigot of the EMIC Team finished one spot higher than her veteran teammate Marit Stromoy of Norway who came home a disappointed 10th.
The series, which looks to be wide open after the first events of 2015, now heads to the lovely historic city of Porto in Portugal for the first time on the 1st and 2nd of August.