H2O Racing
Union Internationale Motonautique


March 3, 2024

Sunday, March 3:  The Sharjah Team’s rookie Rusty Wyatt delivered a sensational debut performance to snatch a last-gasp victory in the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia on Lake Toba on Sunday morning.


The Canadian headed into the final lap in third place behind the defending World Champion Jonas Andersson and his Swedish rival Erik Stark. But Team Bình Định-Viet Nam’s Andersson, who had led the race after a yellow flag on the opening lap, began to slow with a fire on his boat and it looked as though Stark of the Dubai-based Victory Team would storm through to take the chequered flag.


But, while the two Scandinavians were jostling for the lead heading down the final straight, Stark also hit technical issues and Wyatt took an outside line and stormed through to snatch victory by just 0.973 seconds. The Ontario driver now has a four-point lead over Stark in the Drivers’ Championship with Andersson seven points behind in third. Wyatt’s stunning success deprived Andersson of a 15th career GP win and a fifth in succession on the 300th Grand Prix in the 43-year history of the UIM F1H2O World Championship.


An elated Wyatt, who became the first Canadian and the first UIM rookie to win a race, said: “Ecstatic, it was a 30-lap race, that’s for sure, and I started to back off a bit. The water was getting pretty nasty. We had a bit of gap in between each other and I was happy with third but I saw Jonas start breaking down and Stark was having an issue and I held it wide open around the outside and there we were. Being the only Canadian to ever win a UIM F1H2O race is the next level. I will be going home super happy. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”


Runner-up Stark said: “It was brutal. There was a misunderstanding at the start and, luckily, we did a restart and I made an amazing start and I catch Jonas. We had a really good battling for half a lap and I took him. But it was such a bad luck that someone crashed, so it was yellow-flagged and I needed to go back to my starting position. After that, it was basically following him (Jonas) in the race. I saw he had some problems in the end. I was catching him and then I passed him but I had some technical issue on the last straight..”


Andersson added: “The start was a mess. There was a problem with the start light. I think it was only me and Erik who understood it was not a start. Then we had the restart. I had some issues with the boat from the beginning. It was not fast today. In the end we start to get fire in the boat. I am really lucky to be third today. I am thankful to be third…”


Behind the runaway top three, Andersson’s Team Bình Định-Viet Nam team-mate Stefan Arand was almost unnoticed in fourth place on his Grand Prix debut. The Estonian is now equal fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with last year’s Indonesian race winner Bartek Marszalek, who finished fifth in his Strømøy Racing DAC. Team Bình Định-Viet Nam has a four-point lead over the Sharjah Team in the UIM F1H2O Teams’ Championship.


Frenchman Peter Morin of the China CTIC Team and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi initially came home in sixth and a subdued seventh until they were penalised a lap apiece for not maintaining their lane at the start. That lifted the double World Champion Sami Seliö into sixth. Norway’s Marit Strømøy guided the Mercury four-stroke DAC to the finish in seventh and the F1 Atlantic Team’s Ben Jelf finished eighth. Team Abu Dhabi’s Alberto Comparato and the China CTIC Team’s Brent Dillard rounded off the top 10.


Morin and Al-Qamzi slipped back to 11th and 12th and Portuguese veteran Duarte Benavente and Cédric Deguisne of Maverick Racing were also outside the points in 13th and 14th.


The race – as it happened


The two great Swedish rivals, Andersson and Stark, lined up in first and second places on the start pontoon in front of thousands of spectators in cloudy conditions on Lake Toba. Stark had used the morning’s one-hour warm-up session to test his start procedure and was convinced he had a strategy to topple Andersson.


Behind them were the two rookies, Wyatt and Arand, last year’s race winner Marszalek and Seliö at the start of the 30-lap opening race of the season on the 2.218km course. Comparato was down in 16th on the pontoon, sandwiched between the two Maverick Team boats of Deguisne and Alexandre Bourgeot.


Prior to the race start, fans and race teams alike were entertained by various dance routines that portrayed the culture of the region and a spectacular air show.


There was confusion at the start when several drivers at the rear of the field jumped the gun and tore away before the lights went off. Drivers were called back to the start pontoon for a restart.


Andersson and Stark made sensational starts and were neck-and-neck through the opening turns until Stark managed to sneak past the defending World Champion. But the race was yellow-flagged on the first lap when Ferdinand Zandbergen flipped his Red Devil-SMC F1 Team boat into retirement. Because the opening lap had not been completed, drivers returned to their original start order and Andersson regained his first position from Stark before racing resumed after four laps.    


Andersson began to edge clear of Stark as Wyatt and Arand retained third and fourth positions and Marszalek held off Morin in fifth. The wind began to gust on parts of the circuit but Andersson stretched his lead to 3.435 seconds heading into lap eight. The Sharjah Team’s Filip Roms retired with a damaged sponson after five laps.


By one-third distance, Andersson had increased his cushion over Stark to 3.994 seconds, as the rest of the top 10 held station and Comparato pushed his way up to 11th and began to apply pressure on Jelf for the last spot in the top 10. Bourgeot retired after nine laps. Wyatt continued to hang on to Stark’s coat tails in third and pulled well clear of fourth-placed Arand as the race reached half-distance after 15 laps.


The top three continued to be the class of the field as the procession continued behind with no place changes on the leader board heading into lap 19. Stark trailed Andersson by 4.380 seconds but had the consolation of the fastest lap of the race – a tour of 1min 00.606sec.


Comparato’s challenge for 10th place was curtailed when he spun out on lap 23 and slipped back to 12th behind Dillard. As the weather conditions began to deteriorate, Stark closed in on Andersson and reduced the gap to 1.387sec with five laps to run. But the Swedish World Champion put the pedal to the metal again and moved back into a 2.354sec cushion on the next lap.


While Stark continued to pressurise Andersson, Wyatt closed to within one second of the Victory Team driver. Arand, Marszalek, Morin and Al-Qamzi continued to hold fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh overall. Comparato managed to repass Dillard and regained 11th.


But the drama was about to unfold in a spectacular finale to an enthralling race. As a slowing Andersson and Stark became embroiled in a scrap for the win through the final turn buoys and on to the home straight, Wyatt stormed through on the outside to pass the chequered flag and win on his Grand Prix debut. It was a sensational end to another spectacular weekend on Lake Toba.


It was also noticeable that the three podium finishers and the fourth-placed driver were all racing for Government-backed teams from the UAE emirates of Sharjah and Dubai and Vietnam. Maybe next year, the Grand Prix of Indonesia on spectacular Lake Toba could see a team supported by the Republic of Indonesia….