ABU DHABI - Monday, November 7 - As we get set for the inaugural F1H2O Nations Cup event, 18-20 November, on picturesque Marina Bay a history lesson maybe in order.
The highest level of performance in the world of catamaran powerboat racing, the UIM F1H2O World Championship series, goes back to its inaugural Grand Prix officially 31 years ago on Lake Como in Italy.
However, the sport has seen an ever changing landscape since that time as it continues to evolve into the knife-edged, adrenalin rushing sport that it is today, always encompassing a unique marriage of European designed boats propelled by strong American horsepower.
With this outline of success for many years the focus and growth of the sport was on two continents, Europe and North America, to build its popularity to great heights and develop millions of followers who have embraced the sport for over three decades.
But, the promoters of the sport in the late 1980's felt there was something missing, a new emerging audience that needed to embrace the speed and excitement that only catamaran boats could bring to the water. Thus officially, Singapore was sought out as a new “frontier” to spread the word and excitement of the sport to the Far East region of the globe.
In the fall of 1990 and the following two years, Marina Bay would play host to the final round of the Championship of the UIM F1 series. From the very start, it would be a critical event to determine a World title holder for the drivers’ crown.
The late Jon Hill of England, along with his chief rival in fellow Englishman Andy Elliott, had an epic dual to the finish with Hill winning for his first time that season with enough points to capture his only title of his long and storied career.
The following year, another English driver Steve Kerton, won his second race of the season on that final race of the 1991 campaign, ahead of eventual World Champion Jonathan Jones of Wales with Andy Elliott making it an all UK podium with his third place.
The “American Invasion” began in 1992 when UIM F1 “Hall of Fame” driver Bill Seebold of St. Louis beat the new World Champion Fabrizio Bocca of Italy starting a three race winning streak for the boys of the red-white and blue.
UIM F1H2O racing returned in 2003 and Californian Scott Gillman out-dueled Italian Guido Cappellini in an epic match-up in the midst of a three race winning streak for Gillman. Cappellini, would go on to win the title, but Gillman would get revenge the next year winning again in 2004 and claiming his third of his four World Championships.
The last time the catamarans visited Marina Bay marked a surreal event when the two giants of the sport Scott Gillman and Guido Cappellini battled neck-and-neck racing side-by-side for many laps for the lead in the third race of the 2005 campaign. Eventually, Cappellini and Gillman got physical, crashing out together in spectacular fashion, handing the victory to Italian Francesco Cantando of Milan who earned his 11th career win that afternoon.
So, as you can see there has been a lot of drama and excitement leading up to this race event and the history runs deep here in Marina Bay.
The “Grand Experiment” dating back more than two decades should only enhance the new F1H2O Nations Cup event which will add more history and lustre to the great sport that is H2O Racing!