This weekend (24/25 September) saw Stewartby Powerboat Racing Club become home for the 2016 UIM European F2, F4 and GT15 Championships. The weekend hosted by Powerboat GP saw 50 teams from 11 European countries make the journey to Stewartby in Bedford for the two day competition.
The line up was World Class with reigning World Champions in the shape of Estonia’s Stefan Arand in the GT15 class and Juho-Matti Manninen of Finland in the F4 catamaran class looking to secure the double championship crown.
In the junior GT15 class 15 youngsters lined up to challenge Stefan Arand and battle for the European crown. First to lay down the gauntlet was Sweden’s Adam Wrenkler who claimed pole position 11 hundredths of a second faster than the World champion in qualifying. British Champion & British Sprint Champion Thomas Mantripp was the highest placed Brit amongst the fleet in qualifying in 4th place and with just over half a second separating the top four boats the action was set to be intense.
As the start lights went out for the start of heat 1 the fleet leapt into action powering towards the first turn Wrenkler took full advantage of his pole position and as the spray settled rounding the first turn he had the World Champion hot in his wake with Britain's Thomas Mantripp chasing both of them down. Wrenkler led from start to finish leaving Arand to settle for second and Mantripp to claim third.
Heat 2 saw a determined Arand set on claiming back the lead. Conditions were less than perfect for the 10-16 year old powerboat racers but they all focussed and despite a couple of near misses as Brits Harvey Smith and Jonathan Brewer both being caught by the wind and nearly heading skyward the youngsters all brought their boats home safely Arand claimed the lead in heat two and despite trying to pass his rival at every turn Wrenkler was forced to settle for second with Mantripp once more claiming third.
Racing 4 heats with the best three results to count Estonia’s Stefan Arand went on to dominate in heat three and four to claim the European Crown for the second consecutive year. Despite the grit and determination shown by Thomas Mantripp he couldn’t pass Sweden’s Adam Wrenkler and was forced to settle for the Bronze medal with Wrenkler claiming the silver medal. Fourth place went to Estonia’s Georgi Iljin and claiming fifth was Britain’s Jonathan Brewer working his way up from his 12th qualification place.
Thirteen teams from 8 different countries travelled to battle for the UIM F4 European Championship crown amongst the contenders, were 2016 World Champion Juho-Matti Maninnen from Finland, Latvia’s Nikita Ljics and British Contenders Sam Whittle and Ben Morse all looking to put in a viable challenge for the European Crown.
It was the reigning European Champion Maninnen that set the bar setting a sub 57 second time on his 7th lap claiming him the all important pole position 1.2 seconds faster than finland’s Magnus Sedeholm in second. Ben Morse was the highest placed Brit in qualifying claiming third on the grid ahead of the formidable presence of Latvia’s Nikita Ljics.
Flying form from the Finnish World Champion would see him untouchable in all three heats leading the way from start to finish in a flawless performance to see him claim the Double World and European crown for 2016. Meanwhile Magnus Sedeholm, Ben Morse, Nikita Ljics, along with Finland’s Kalle Viippo and Sweden’s Morgan Jernfast battled for the silver and Bronze medals. Heat 1 saw Sedeholm take second with Brit Ben Morse in third.
Heat two saw a repeat performance and with worsening conditions and fading light the championship would be decided on just three heats. The final heat saw Magnus Sedeholm secure another second place finish behind Manninen to claim the silver medal and despite a late attack from Morgan Jernfast taking third Ben Morse battled home to finish in 4th and claim the European Bronze Medal.
Britain’s Sam Whittle and Rob Veares were both plagued by problems all weekend seeing them both well off the pace. Meanwhile Brit Ben Jelf finished a strong 6th in his first international catamaran competition.
But the biggest fight of them all for the weekend came in the form of the F2 European Championship. A world class fleet of top experienced racers took to the water to duel it out for the European crown. British Champion Paul Balfour was the first to crash out of the championship as coming down to the bottom turn he was sent skyward and left with an irreparable boat for the rest of the weekend's event.
In qualifying it was Birthday boy Sweden’s Johan Osterberg that claimed pole position with a narrow margin ahead of Tobias Munthe-Kaas of Norway and Britain's very own Matthew Palfreyman in 3rd position.
Set for a strong starting position the young Brit headed out in Sunday’s free practice to perfect his set up and get used to the conditions when disaster struck as he barrel rolled out the session leaving his team with very little time for him to make the start line for the first heat.
A delay due to September squalls coming through Stewartby gave Matt and team just enough time to repair his boat and for the young racer to focus on the task ahead. The boats lined up and as the start lights went out 13 F2 Catamarans roared away from the dock. As all eyes watched the first turn clearing the spray first was the plucky youngster in boat number 13, determined to reward his team's hard work and dedication Matt held the lead and drove a blinding race to take the first important points of the weekend. Latvian Uvis Slakteris followed him home in second with Johan Osterberg taking third.
Slakteris soared from second to take the lead in heat 2 and hot on his wake was Colin Jelf with Palfreyman right behind him until a red flag saw the fleet return to the start grid. Once again Slakteris got the best start but this time Palfreyman was ready for the former 3 times World Champion Jelf and held on to second place as they rounded the first mark. Position’s remained throughout the session with the championship to be decided on the third and final heat.
On fine form the Latvian used his pole position advantage to soar away from the start once more in the lead and managed to hold on to his lead to the chequered flag and in doing so claiming the European Championship Crown. Palfreyman followed in second and with it rewarded his team with a very hard earned Silver European Medal. Despite a strong fight from friendly rival Frode Sunsdal the former 3 time World Champion Colin Jelf took another third place finish in heat three to return to the European Championship podium claiming the bronze medal.
As the team's celebrated a busy but successful weekends racing podium presentations were made, champagne was sprayed and champions crowned.
Powerboat GP promoter Jason Brewer reflected on a taxing and tiring weekend “There have been several times this weekend when we thought we may not see champions crowned. There have been delays out of our control and the one thing you can't control is the weather. Firstly I’d like to Congratulate our Champions, Stefan Arand, Juho-Matti Manninen and Uvis Slakteris fantastic performances from all three of them. I’d like to also thank all the competitors and teams that have travelled to make the event happen, it’s been a long weekend for everyone but we got there in the end.”
He continued “But I really have to say thank you to all the officials, Volunteers and safety crews that have put in hours of dedication and hard work before, during and after the event without them quite simply the event wouldn't have happened.”