British protégé Ben plagued with piston problems over the weekend in Indonesia

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  • Britain’s Ben Jelf this weekend competed at the opening round of the F1H2O World Championship at Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia at the beautiful location of Lake Toba. Twenty of the World’s Top Powerboat Racers were welcomed by Indonesian locals like royalty and pop stars as they spent the week preparing for the opening Race of the season.

The 22-year-old from Maidstone, Kent joined teammate Duarte Benavente of Portugal in the F1 Atlantic Team for the 2023 World Championship, becoming the youngest British racer to compete at this level of competition.

Jelf who is very much still getting to grips with his F1 Dragon hull placed 14th in the first practice session of the season in just his third outing in the boat.

As the drivers took to the water for their second practice session of the season Ben continued to get to grips with the 425 horsepower engine and put in as many laps as possible to gain in experience and confidence.

Qualifying was scheduled for Saturday afternoon as the lights went out for the session All 20 boats were sent out on schedule on to the demanding Lake Toba course and ran at low speeds for a few minutes while race officials assessed any safety concerns. Unfortunately, the wind was beginning to strengthen from the northeast on the far side of the course and Race Director took the decision to red flag the session and postpone BRM Qualifying. 

Following the strong winds that forced the postponement of BRM Qualifying on Saturday afternoon, qualifying was rescheduled for Sunday morning and reduced to one crucial 45-minute session to determine Pole Position and the starting order for the race.

The 2023 Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia saw race officials faced with more decisions as they were warned of a similar weather forecast for Sunday afternoon’s race. 

On safety grounds the decision was taken to host two shorter races, the first starting at noon and the second starting, as per the original schedule, at 15.00hrs in the presence of Joko Widodo, the President of the Republic of Indonesia. 

Full championship points were to be awarded for each race and the starting order for Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia race two will be determined by the finishing order from Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia race one. 

Throughout Qualifying Jelf continued to put in the laps but was failing to find vital seconds needed in the session when disaster struck for the British hopeful as his engine blew a piston leaving the F1 Atlantic Team in a race against the clock to fix the problem before the first race.

As the Worlds top 20 drivers lined up for the Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia, Jelf’s crew pulled it out the bag and the youngster took his place on the starting grid. As the start lights went out Jelf powered away with the fleet getting a good start and finding himself in the mix. But the youngster was to find himself plagued by more problems and he was forced to retire on lap 10 of the race seeing him in 17th place.

The team set about once more at a blistering pace to find the problem that had caused the loss of power that forced the youngster to retire from the first race and he once more made it out to the start line for the second race of the Kopiko Grand Prix of Indonesia.

Along with the other drivers Ben Jelf had the great honor of meeting His Excellency; President Joko Widodo, Head of State & Head of Government in Indonesia and the opportunity to thank him for the hospitality of his country at the F1H2O Kopiko GP of Indonesia at Lake Toba. 

Once more the weather was to make a major play in the Grand Prix Race as the boats lined up weather seemed favorable but in instant strong winds caused rolling swells and unfavorable conditions and as the lights went out even the most experienced racers struggled with conditions. Just 3 laps into the race and the majority of the fleet had opted to retire and race officials decided to curtail the race on safety grounds.

Following the race, Jelf had this to say “Wow, what an event! So we never achieved the results we quite wanted and the weather was definitely against us but we’ve learned a lot this week and it’s been a fantastic event.” 

He continued “The welcome we’ve received from everyone here at Lake Toba has been absolutely phenomenal! I learn every time I get in the boat and will continue to learn from the wealth of knowledge the team around me has to offer! We now turn attention to the Grand Prix of China in Zhengzhou at the end of April and the rest of the season ahead.”

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