H2O Racing
Union Internationale Motonautique


February 23, 2024

Friday, February 23:  Less than three months after Team Sweden and Jonas Andersson claimed a clean sweep of all four major titles at the final round of the UIM F1H2O World Championship in Sharjah, what promises to be a gripping new season gets underway with the second Grand Prix of Indonesia on March 1st-3rd.  


The 300th race in the history of the world’s most famous canopy racing championship will be held on Lake Toba in Sumatra, the stunning venue that proved to be such a spectacular success on its debut last year. The natural wonder is an immense volcanic lake occupying the caldera of a super volcano that was formed by a gigantic climate-changing eruption around 70,000 years ago. Toba Caldera is one of 20 geoparks in Indonesia and was recognised in 2020 as one of the UNESCO Global Geoparks.


Officials at H2O Racing and local promoter InJourney are expected 17 boats from nine teams to line up for the opening round of a World Championship that will visit the city of Qui Nhon in the Bình Định province of Vietnam for the first time in a little over a month’s time.


As drivers prepare to fire their opening salvos across the bows of their rivals in earnest this coming weekend, the triumphant Team Sweden is no more. Renamed Team Bình Định-Viet Nam for the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship - following a support package announced during the close season - Andersson returns to defend his world titles with the support of the young rookie Stefan Arand of Estonia. Arand will be making his debut in the World Championship after finishing third overall in last year’s UIM F2 World Championship.


The Victory Team’s Erik Stark finished second in last year’s Drivers’ Championship but will be racing alone for the Dubai-based team in Indonesia. This follows Ahmad Al-Fahim’s one-race suspension following his collision with Shaun Torrente in the second of the Sharjah sprint races. Stark returned to the Victory Team at the start of last year after being absent from the series since the first race of 2021. He has 12 podium finishes and four race wins to his name thus far.


The China CTIC Team finished third in last year’s Teams’ Championship and Frenchman Peter Morin shadowed Andersson and Stark in the Drivers’ Championship. The team has announced an unchanged line-up for 2024 and American racer Brent Dillard will race alongside Morin for a second year. He finished 10th in the points’ standings and earned a pair of sixth-place finishes in Indonesia and France in the second of the two Mercury-engined Moore boats.


Team Abu Dhabi dominated the World Championship in 2022 but suffered bad luck and an annus horribilis by their standards in 2023. The team running out of the Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club (ADMSC) managed to finish second in the Teams’ Championship and Thani Al-Qamzi was classified fifth in the Drivers’ rankings. But the veteran missed one of the races and his former team-mate Shaun Torrente was disqualified from one race and missed the last two rounds for very different reasons. Replacement driver Rashed Al-Qemzi managed to score points on the three races that he entered but Team Abu Dhabi will be aiming to markedly improve this season.


Following Torrente’s decision to stand down this year, Team Abu Dhabi opted to recruit the services of young Italian talent Alberto Comparato for 2024. He only finished in the points on two occasions last year but was competitive in qualifying and showed great pace at times for the Comparato F1 Team. He has already earned one podium finish and a pole position but the 26-year-old’s switch to Team Abu Dhabi means that the Comparato F1 Team will not be present in Indonesia.


Double World Champion Sami Seliö will manage and drive for the Red Devil-SMC F1 Team this season with Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen as his team-mate. The Finn will be trying to improve on a 2023 season running under the Sharjah Team banner where he and Zandbergen finished ninth and fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and fourth in the Teams’ Championship.


The Sharjah International Marine Sports Club confirmed in late January that four-time World Champion Scott Gillman’s Mad Croc Gillman Racing had been taken over by the UAE emirate of Sharjah and would be rebranded as the Sharjah Team for the new season.


Filip Roms, 29, finished eighth in last year’s Drivers’ Championship and has two podium finishes to his name. He retains his place in the new line-up alongside Canadian Rusty Wyatt, who will be making his F1H2O racing debut on Lake Toba. The 28-year-old Ontario racer has been competing in the American Powerboat Championship and won the 2022 Lake Havusu Classic. He has shown pace and guile Stateside and team manager Gillman has a good track record of unearthing hidden talent.


Strømøy Racing, the F1 Atlantic Team and Maverick Racing retain unchanged driver line-ups for the opening race on Lake Toba. Norway’s Marit Strømøy and Polish team-mate Bartek Marszalek – the pole sitter and winner of last year’s inaugural race in Indonesia – will crew the two Strømøy DACs. Strømøy will continue the development of Mercury’s four-stroke V8 360 APX engine. Her best result with the new power unit was sixth overall at last December’s Road to Sharjah-Grand Prix of Sharjah.


Portuguese veteran Duarte Benavente teams up with England’s Ben Jelf in the two F1 Atlantic Team boats and the French duo of Cédric Deguisne and Alexandre Bourgeot represent Maverick Racing. Only Jelf (three) and Bourgeot (one) scored points last year and will be hoping to make rapid progress this season.


To lessen the risk of a strengthening afternoon wind hampering the timetable for race weekend, H2O Racing has arranged the on-water morning action on Lake Toba. Racing gets underway at 07.00hrs on Friday (March 1st) with one hour of free practice. The three traditional qualifying sessions then take centre stage at Balige from 10.30hrs.


Further free practice will be permitted for an hour at the same time on Saturday (March 2nd) morning before the customary and famed massive crowds – 100,000 are reported to have been present last year - will be entertained by a pair of Sprint races, the running order of which will be determined by qualifying positions on Friday. The first of the two 15-minute sprints starts at 11.10hrs with the second following at 11.40hrs. From this Grand Prix onwards, points will be awarded in each of the sprint races, with 10 to the winner, nine for second, eight for third and so on.


Race day (Sunday, March 3rd) gets underway with a permitted one-hour warm-up session from 07.00hrs. After the traditional parade lap around the demanding Lake Toba course, the 2024 Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia fires into life at 11.15hrs.