22 March 2024

Friday, March 22: Frenchman François Medori, Estonia’s Jasmiin Ypraus and Austrian racer Kevin Reiterer claimed the early bragging rights in the Runabout GP1, Ski Ladies GP1 and Ski Division GP1 categories after the first free practice session for the Grand Prix of Bình Định-Vietnam in a sweltering Quy Nhon on Friday afternoon.


Defending two-time World Champion Medori stormed to the top of the Runabout GP1 standings to win the session with a late lap of 2min 00.495sec. That put the Frenchman 2.871 seconds clear of Swede Samuel Johansson. Three-time World Champion Jeremy Perez finished the stint in third, ahead of Rasmus Koch Hansen, 50-year-old Japanese rider Jun Ikoma and Hungarian racer Gyorgy Kasza.


Ski Ladies GP1 entrants made history by being the first racers on to Vietnamese water competitively. Ypraus topped the times with a best run of 1min 59.063sec – the only sub two-minute lap - during her 10 tours of the challenging course. The stint became a tug of war between Ypraus, a returning Estelle Poret and defending World Champion Jessica Chavanne, with Chavanne eventually finishing second ahead of former champion Emma-Nellie Ortendahl, early leader Poret, Benedicte Drange of Norway and American racer River Varner.


Both Estelle Poret and her brother Jeremy have recovered from injury and returned to the UIM-ABP series in Vietnam. Estelle missed the Indonesian event in 2023 on Lake Toba as a result of her shoulder issue after taking three second places in Sardinia. The 2017 UIM Ski Ladies GP1 runner-up said: “It’s great to be back and I am looking forward to it. I guess we may have some different water conditions over the weekend. I have not really had chance to test before but I know it will be a big fight.”


Jeremy was UIM World Champion in Ski Division GP1 in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2021 and is visiting Vietnam for the first time. The professional Beynost driver said: “I am very happy to be back and the goal is to win the title. But, this winter, I made a shoulder surgery. I like it here. All the people are very cool and I think the condition on the sea will be good. There will be some waves, for sure, and the races will be long. At this time, the weather is very different in Europe but I know I have to drink a lot. I am not using my ski, but it has a Kawasaki engine and is a good ski and I am looking forward to the weekend.”


Poret finished the opening Ski Division GP1 practice session in fourth position. Three-time UIM World Champion Kevin Reiterer laid down the gauntlet with a quickest lap of 1min 58.740sec to win the session by 1.523 seconds from the 2017 World Champion Quinten Bossche of Belgium. Morgan Poret was third and Matteo Benini and Oliver Koch Hansen rounded off the top six.


World number one and defending champion Roberto Mariani and Portugal’s Paulo Nuñes rounded off the stint with the first of their spectacular Freestyle programmes, much to the delight of the assembled crowd. Team Abu Dhabi’s multiple World Champion Rashid Al-Mulla will join them on Saturday.


The paddock area and supporting Bình Định festival was a hive of frantic activity with aquabikers, team members and officials mingling with fans and trade stall representatives, as a bustling ‘race village’ rapidly took shape in the punishing heat on the quayside adjacent to Thi Nai Bay. The location was the scene of an historic battle way back in 1283 between the Cham army and Mongol-led Yuan forces.


There was a dramatic change in the weather overnight and mill pond water conditions, sunshine and baking temperatures greeted competitors as they arrived at the paddock to make their final preparations on Friday morning. The list of registrations confirmed 55 competitors for the opening round of the UIM-ABP Aquabike World Championship, with 20 in Runabout GP1, 21 in Ski Division GP1, 11 Ski Ladies GP1 riders and three Freestyle entrants.


At the first of the riders’ briefings, H2O Racing and Aquabike Promotion founder Nicoló di San Germano confirmed Vietnam’s promotion to full UIM stature. “The Vietnam Powerboat Federation is now a fully-fledged member of the UIM family. Welcome Vietnam. The country will play a very important role in powerboating. For the next two weeks, it is the world capital of powerboating and aquabikes – the two most prestigious World Championships in the UIM. We continue to expand the participation of more and more nations and, of all the mechanical sports, aquabiking is probably the one with the most participating nations in the world.”


Tomorrow (Saturday) features a hectic schedule of racing on Thi Nai Bay. A second 20-minute free practice session for each category gets underway at 09.00hrs and precedes pole position qualifying from 10.30hrs onwards. The stint will also determine qualification for the evening’s Parallel Slalom.


The first of the Runabout GP1, Ski Division GP1 and Ski Ladies GP1 Motos fires into life from 15.15hrs with further practice permitted for Freestyle entrants. After a rider’s briefing, the day’s on-water action concludes with the Parallel Slalom and the first of the Freestyle Motos, starting at 21.00hrs.