H2O Racing
Union Internationale Motonautique


March 29, 2024

Friday, March 29:  The Victory Team’s Erik Stark secured a hard-earned pole position for the inaugural Grand Prix of Bình Định-Vietnam in Quy Nhơn after a thrilling qualifying session on Thi Nai Bay on Friday lunchtime.


The Swede’s seventh career pole position and his first since the Grand Prix of Sharjah in 2018 came on his 44th Grand Prix appearance. A late lap of 43.657sec was enough to pip Team Vietnam’s Jonas Andersson by just 0.293sec. Andersson’s talented young Estonian team-mate Stefan Arand qualified in third place.


Stark said: “Today, we took the pole and finally from Jonas. We have been doing this for like three races now going back and forth. Today was my turn. I have been in this situation many times with Jonas, three or four minutes left and I am leading and then he takes it on the last lap. The last minute felt so long but we did it. The boat was amazing to drive!”


Andersson added: “I didn’t have the parts to beat him today. Something was not 100% correct with the engine. I changed the engine yesterday. I used a new one and it felt better yesterday. Maybe the other one could have been better, you never know. I have not tested them together. I am happy with second place. Erik is very fast. I am also proud and happy for Stefan to be third on his second race. He almost had the same time as me and I have been here 20 years! We are a very strong team. Now we have to finish the race to get a lot of points for the team.”


Arand said: “I got beaten out of third by Rusty (Wyatt) in Indonesia but, this time, I am super happy. I did not think that I would be in a position to fight Erik and Jonas this season let alone this race, so I’m extremely grateful to Jonas and to my propeller guy for all the work he has put in. I’m stoked!”


The Sharjah Team’s championship leader Rusty Wyatt continued to impress by qualifying in fourth and the China CTIC Team’s Peter Morin and Strømøy Racing’s Bartek Marszalek finished fifth and sixth.


After failing to reach Q3, two-time World Champion Sami Seliö qualified in seventh and his Red Devil-SMC F1 Team colleague

Ferdinand Zandbergen, Morin’s team-mate Brent Dillard and Team Abu Dhabi’s Thani Al-Qamzi rounded off the top 10 qualifiers.




Like Alberto Comparato, the Victory Team’s Ahmad Al-Fahim had also suffered engine woes in the morning’s free practice and faced a late rush to be ready for qualifying. The sun had broken through and the wind dropped at the start of Q1, where six of the 18 boats would be eliminated during the 20-minute session in hot and humid conditions.


Morin laid down the early gauntlet with a 45.599sec lap and all but booked his place in Q2, as Wyatt and Marszalek moved into the top three.


Marit Strømøy will be making her 99th career Grand Prix start on Sunday and continues to develop the Mercury four-stroke V8 engine. The Norwegian held fourth early in the session. Before qualifying started, she said: “It is a completely different package. The engine is a different kind. It accelerates in a different way and I have to drive the boat differently. We are making progress with every session. For 17 years I raced the two-stroke and only 20 hours with this one and we are nearly there.”


The yellow flag came out after five minutes when Comparato flipped his DAC out of contention and barrel-rolled to a standstill, destroying the left sponson in the process. Team Abu Dhabi does have a spare boat in situ but the Italian was sidelined before racing resumed with an extension added to the clock that now showed 15 minutes remaining. Ironically, the Italian had crashed the same boat used by Shaun Torrente during his accident in Sharjah last December.


Andersson was yet to post a time but the Swede took to the water on the resumption of racing, as Arand moved into second behind Morin with a lap of 46.694sec. Andersson climbed out of trouble and into third with a lap of 45.705sec but the battle to survive Q1 was waging amongst the tail-enders.


The Sharjah Team’s Filip Roms was under pressure from Al-Fahim and the two Maverick Racing boats and the Finn languished in 15th with eight minutes to run in his boat that had been rebuilt after the crash in Indonesia. Marszalek slipped down to a nervy 12th heading into the last five minutes but the Pole, like Brent Dillard, held on with potent late laps and comfortably reached Q2.


The yellow flag was raised again with three minutes remaining when a turn buoy became detached and began to drift. The session was chequered flagged soon afterwards. The Maverick Racing duo of Alexandre Bourgeot and Cédric Deguisne failed to make Q2 alongside Comparato, the F1 Atlantic Team’s Duarte Benavente, a disappointed Roms and Al-Fahim, despite a propeller change for the latter near the finish. Strømøy survived in 12th place in a session won by Morin from Arand and Andersson.




The dozen surviving racers was whittled down to just six in the second 15-minute qualifying session. Morin continued his strong morning’s pace and carded an early target of 44.880sec and carved out a gap over Andersson, Wyatt and Seliö.


With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Ben Jelf, Dillard, Marszalek, Strømøy, Al-Qamzi and Zandbergen were in need of an improvement if they were to make Q2. Morin continued to top the times from Andersson, Wyatt, Arand, Stark and Seliö.


Stark leapt to the top of the rankings with a lap of 44.414sec and the session finished with the Swede leading from a flying Wyatt, Arand, Morin, Andersson and Marszalek after the Pole pushed Seliö down to seventh. Zandbergen, Dillard, Al-Qamzi, Strømøy and Jelf also failed to progress to Q3.




Five of the six qualifiers had also reached Q3 on Lake Toba a few weeks ago. Ten frenetic minutes would determine pole position for the inaugural race in Vietnam and Wyatt fired the opening salvo across his rivals’ bows with a lap of 44.168sec. Andersson brought out the heavy artillery early and counter-attacked with a run of 43.950sec to hit the front with Stark moving into second with a 44.115sec.


With six minutes on the clock, Andersson led from Stark, Wyatt, Morin, Arand and Marszalek. But the anticipated battle between Andersson and Stark did not disappoint and Stark responded with a dazzling 43.657sec run to claim provisional pole. Andersson failed to deliver on his next lap, as Arand moved into third with a 44.025sec lap.


Less than two minutes remained but Andersson was not able to beat his great rival’s time and Stark held on to claim pole. The two Team Vietnam boats finished second and third, Wyatt qualified fourth and Morin and Marszalek were fifth and sixth.


On-water action continues at 07.30hrs on Saturday morning with the second of the one-hour free practice sessions.