British Powerboat Racer Ben Jelf (22, Maidstone) saw his racing dreams come true as he competed in the F1H2O World Championships for F1 Team Atlantic. The youngster became the youngest British competitor to compete in the pinnacle class in the sport of powerboat racing as he competed in the final two races of the World Championships in the Grand Prix of Sharjah and Grand Prix of the Middle East securing a top 10 finish at his first event.
Jelf who has been Powerboat racing for 13 years jumped at the opportunity to compete and follow in the footsteps of several legendary British Powerboat racers before him including his father and uncle.
Jelf joined Portugal’s Duarte Benavente as the second driver in the F1 Atlantic Team along with his crew as they aimed to end the season on a high and test the youngsters racing prowess.
Racing an F1 Dragon Hull the team had to pull out all the stops to ensure the boat was set up for Ben and ready to race for the first Grand Prix of the doubleheader in the United Arab Emirates.
Each Grand Prix would consist of Free Practice, Qualifying that would see the start grid decided and then the Grand Prix Race itself. Jelf faced stiff competition from 17 other drivers consisting of some of the world’s very best drivers.
As the boats lined up for the first Grand Prix Jelf was in 10th on the grid right in the middle of the field of 18 and waiting for the start lights to go out! As the boats powered away from the start Jelf got a blistering start but backed off following a coming together with the boat on the inside with him determined to complete the team’s goal and finish his first F1 race safely. 38 laps ensued with Jelf losing power steering at lap 18 fighting to control the boat for the rest of the race. Securing a 14th place finish despite the loss in power steering and the loss of a propeller blade during the race the team realized they still had a lot of work to do before the Grand Prix of the Middle East and were soon back at work to ensure the youngster had the best opportunity to secure a strong finish in the next race.
Starting from 14th on the grid the for the Grand Prix of the Middle East saw the youngster quick off the line again keeping his cool and calm Ben quickly got to grips with the boat and the conditions and in a race that saw the three championship leaders all push their boats to the limit, with two crashing out and the other forced to retire. Ben took the chequered flag and finished 7th putting all-important championship points on the table.
On the experience, the youngster had this to say “There are so many people to thank I’m scared I’ll forget someone. Having this opportunity was absolutely fantastic and I can’t quite believe I’ve done it and managed to secure a top 10 finish is beyond all expectations.”
He continued“I have to thank the F1 Atlantic Team and Duarte for giving me this opportunity but also my crew and team for all their hard work and belief in me to get me on the water. The biggest thanks is to mum and dad for their unwavering support and in helping me achieve my dreams!
Also, I have had a huge number of support and messages from all over the world and it really means the World to me! We now turn our attention to the 2023 season and how we can continue to progress.”
Team Manager Colin Jelf had this to say on his son’s achievements “We had to put a lot of work just to get the boat on the water and it was still not an ideal set up but that didn’t phase Ben he was just grateful for the opportunity and took the challenge head-on, we are all immensely proud of him and for him to secure a 7th place finish at his first event we couldn’t have asked for any more, he learns something every race and pushes himself to be the best he can so we will see what comes next.”
Ben will now head with The F1 Atlantic Team to Indonesia in February for the opening round of the 2023 F1H2O World Championship before the start of the F2 British and World Championship seasons.