Six-foot seas, white caps and up to 30 mph winds, stirred an exciting racetrack for the first two rounds of the UIM Endurance World Championship and European Championship Series. Situated in the Mediterranean just south of Sicily and north of the African coast, Malta has been a focal point for ocean racing for decades. As well as attracting celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for their upcoming movie in Malta, the Ocean Grand Prix brought in powerboat racers from Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden and the United States. Headed by Joseph Azzopardi, International Sea Racing promoted the first event in grand Malta style. The competition heated up during qualifying with the top two favored boats in Evolution class #33 Furnibo / ING Financial and #77 Lucas Oil / Peters & May split by just 0,6 seconds and trailing in third place #66 Hercules Sägemann.
Saturday morning practice was cut short due to untenable conditions for the safety craft in the high seas but virtually nothing stops the racing in UIM Endurance so in the afternoon even as the winds picked up, the course was set for the first round of racing starting at 4pm. A textbook start by race director Jean-Marie Van Lancker, unleashed the fleet of racers roaring down the back straightaway heading to the two 90 degree corners, Foxtrot and Golf.
The Scandinavian Offshore Challenge Team's #77 Lucas Oil accelerated to an early lead with #66 edging up on the outside as they headed into the first turn with #33 Furnibo / ING Financial hanging tight on the inside. It seemed evident Silfverberg and Hook in their new SilverHook were taking the conservative approach into the first turn and with very little test time in this newly design race boat, caution was the better part of valor.
SilverHook in Malta 2011 - credit: Karel Overlaet
Emerging out of the first two turns was #66 Siegfried Greve and Douglas Verbanck with #33 Frank Hemelaer and Pierre Colpin right in their rooster tail. As the pack approached the start finish line, the Sterling powered #77 Lucas Oil SOC made their move and surged to the front of the pack (click to watch movie: Saturday- Lap 1. Silfverberg and Hook held the lead confidently for the first half the race until turn buoy Delta came adrift giving the second place boat #33 time to cut inside and overtake.
While attempting to regain the lead, #77 broke a trim pump losing control of their port trim tab (used to keep the boat level flying in varying seas) along with some electrical systems whose wires got tore out by the carnage. "Basically what happened was the trim motor broke off its mount due to the high G-forces while still tethered by its wires. It was lashing around in the engine compartment like a ninja nunchaku damaging everything in sight!" exclaimed driver Michael Silfverberg.
"Trim tabs on a monohull are an essential control system for flying the boat level and minimizing roll just like on an airplane", explained throttleman Nigel Hook. "Without the hydraulic tabs we lost several miles per hour and the ride became rougher as we rode more on the side" added Hook.
"Ancora in grado di prendere un secondo posto nella sua prima uscita ? stata un successo enorme e il nostro post-gara ha rivelato l'ispezione dello scafo. SilverHook era totalmente senza danni, dopo una gara molto ruvida per molto tempo!? commented chief mechanic Franco Galluzzo from Rome.
SilverHook in Malta 2011 Michael Silfverberg and Nigel Hook - credit: Karel Overlaet
The podium presentation played the Belgium national anthem for Hemelaer and Colpin receiving the gold medal, Swedish Silfverberg and American Hook the Silver medal and on the third rung, the German team Searex.
"I'm thoroughly relieved", shared Hook. "We have been on a well planned, yet extremely tight schedule, and just making this race was a huge effort by everyone on our team!" said Hook. "When we passed the Furnibo Fountain I felt relief. We have a few wrinkles to iron out, but there is no doubt, no doubt at all, we have a winner in SilverHook!"
Sunday's endurance race was triggered early at 2pm as the weather conditions were just as strong and the seas bigger than the day before. "Other race organizations have cancelled races not even as rough as this", Crew Chief, John Cosker was quoted remarking. UIM Endurance series was going to earn its reputation for being the toughest race series on the planet with the marine environment exacting the most brutal test for the machines and men that race in it.
Sunday's green flag saw a similar scene unfold with Belgium #33 screaming out of the first turn just ahead of the #77 with the English duo of Miles Jennings and Drew Langdon in the Silverline Fountain hanging onto the third slot. Before the first lap was done, the new SilverHook GP48 had taken the lead showing its speed on the straightaway.
The #77 Lucas Oil SOC SilverHook GP48 powered by Sterling and owned by the Scandinavian Offshore Challenge Team had to contend with cruising to a hobbled third place after finally succumbing to a failed transmission.
Evo Podium Malta 2011 - credit: Karel Overlaet
The team would like to thank honorary team recruit for the week, Rob Bugeja for all of his hard work and support in the pits, for PR and for logistical help in sourcing needed parts locally. Finally yet importantly, we were delighted to have at our side in the pits and helping with scoring and video, Dr. Sarah Hendersen. The lovely Sara usually is splitting her time between her practices in the hospital as well as running the Lucas Oil distributorship on the Island and in neighboring countries.
Lucas Oil is expanding into many new markets and geographies at record pace. Out this spring was a new line of marine lubricants featuring the 77 Lucas Oil on the label, delivering on the company's mantra "Made in America, Sold to the World". With The UIM Endurance World Championship being televised again by Greenlight TV, each show will broadcast into 500 million homes!