Wednesday, May 31st - After a thrilling start to the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship season in Asia, attention now switches to Europe and the historic French town of Mâcon, which hosts round three of the series on June 30th-July 2nd.
The new-look calendar got off to a spectacular start with a first ever race on a volcanic lake in Indonesia and then the F1H2O caravan was off to Zhengzhou to mark the championship’s return to the People’s Republic of China for the first time since the global Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Now attention focuses on a new challenge and a race course on the River Saône in the picturesque town that is the administrative centre of the Saône-Loire region, famous for its vineyards, water sports, walks, caves and museums. Tens of thousands of people attended the Kopika Grand Prix of Indonesia and over 4,000 were present on race day in China: H2O Racing will be hoping that the Mâconnais come out in force to support France’s round of the world’s premier powerboat racing series.
Last year, the town at the southern gate of the Burgundy wine region hosted the opening round of the series at the start of June. Team Abu Dhabi delivered a dominant performance to seal a 1-2 finish and set them on their way for an eventual clean sweep of the Teams’, Drivers’ and Pole Position Trophy titles.
Florida-based racer Shaun Torrente went on to win a third world title in spectacular fashion on the final laps of the Grand Prix of Sharjah, but the DAC driver had laid the foundations for that with a solid performance and the race win in Mâcon. Team-mate Thani Al-Qamzi came home in second and Peter Morin finished his home event with the final place on the podium for the China CTIC Team.
Only 15 racers were present at the season’s opener – a far cry from the 20 boats and 10 teams that ended the season and lined up at the start of this year’s series in Asia.
The UIM F1H2O has considerable pedigree and recent history in France but the event in 2023 will be only the second time that the town and the Quai des Marans has hosted the world’s premier mono-hull series. Évian-les-Bains hosted five races between 2015 and 2019 and the western coastal town of La Rochelle was the base location for the 2007 Grand Prix of France.
Mâcon may be famous for hosting numerous smaller racing disciplines, such as F4 and Formula 2, but we have to go back to the four-year period between 1997 and 2000 for the last time that the River Saône hosted an F1H2O race.
On those occasions, the town of Chalon-sur-Saône – which is located around 60km north of Mâcon – hosted the Grand Prix of France. Four-time World Champion Scott Gillman won the race in 1997 and his great rival Guido Cappellini followed that success with a hat-trick of wins in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
As far back as the 1960s, Roger Moreau began designing race boats known as the Cormorants (an acronym of COnstruction, Roger MOReau and ANdré Tréfort). They were used in races such as the Two Hours of Mâcon that became a training ground for up-and-coming racers like the Jousseaume brothers and 14-time French endurance and speed champion Jean-Vital Deguisne. The Cormorants dominated French endurance races until the late 1970s and won both the Six Hours of Paris and the 24 Hours of Rouen in 1975.
This year’s event will again be organised by H2O Racing and the Mâcon Motor Yacht Club with its local organising committee that runs under the presidency of Jean-Vital Deguisne and features his son, Maverick Racing’s Cédric Deguisne, as an integral member. The resident of Mâcon will be heavily involved in the organisational build-up to the event before switching roles to racing alongside Alexandre Bourgeot over the weekend.
The Grand Prix of France will also be Carbon-Neutral with CO2 emissions being offset by a local reforestation programme called Reforest Action.