Sweden’s Erik Stark capped a perfect weekend in China by following up his qualifying victory on Saturday with a brilliant race in Sunday’s Union Internationale Motonautique F1 H2O Grand Prix of Harbin, giving him his first Grand Prix victory. The 29-year-old driver held steady through 53 laps around the 1.92-kilometer Hulan Estuary Wetland Park course to take the victory by almost 10 seconds and become the newest member of the elite Grand Prix winners club in his 22nd race.
Team Sweden’s Erik Stark earned his first career F1 H2O victory in China on Sunday. Photos by Simon Palfrader/F1 H2O
Second place went to Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi and Ahmed Al Hameli of Victory Team finished in third place.
Stark, who made a great start from the pole, held off an initial attack from Al Qemzi to the first turn and then held off his relentless challenge for 16 laps when the yellow flag was raised after Emirates Racing’s Marit Stromoy took out two turn buoys, resulting in her disqualification and allowing the field to bunch up.
The race leader managed the restart well but still had to contend with Al Qemzi’s persistent pressure, eventually breaking free in the second half of the race to open up a considerable lead.
“What an amazing feeling—to win at last is just fantastic,” Stark said. “If it looked easy, it wasn’t. Thani was at me the whole time and just one mistake from me and he is right there to pounce. I pushed giving 100 percent until about eight laps from the flag and then felt I could back off a little to save the engine. To take your first win in the highest level of powerboat racing is just unbelievable and I was in tears as I crossed the start-finish line.”
Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al Qemzi finished second at the Grand Prix of Harbin.
Despite an all-out effort, Al Qemzi was unable to get close enough to force a mistake from the leader.
“It was a very tough race,” Al Qemzi said. “I made a good start and did all I could to pass and was fighting for 25 laps but then had a problem with my trim pump and that’s when the gap started to open up. But I am very happy to be on the podium again.”
The yellow flag proved the key moment in the race for Al Hameli, who had been running in fifth place but at the restart immediately passed Alex Carella and his Victory Team teammate, American driver Shaun Torrente who was forced to retire on lap 22 when his engine failed.
“We’re good friends—I’m very happy for Erik,” Torrente said after expressing his disappointment
Al Hameli was able to hold off Carella and take his first podium of the year.
“I am very happy to get this result,” Al Hameli said. “I was expecting it to be tough and it was a very hard race. The top six are so close and it was a big fight.”
Defending champion Philippe Chiappe had a relatively low-key race and was never really in the mix to challenge for a podium as he finished fifth in his CTIC F1 Shenzhen China team boat.
Jonas Andersson brought the second Team Sweden boat home in sixth place ahead of another good drive from Blaze Performance driver Bartek Marszalek.
The results from the third F1 H2O race of the season mixed up the points championship race as Carella moved to the top of the standings with 38 points, and Sami Selio dropped to second (eight points behind) with Chiappe and Stark tied for third with 27 points.
The fourth round of the F1 H2O season takes place in Liuzhou, China, from September 29 to October 1.
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