British hopeful Ben Jelf travelled to Aluksne in Latvia this weekend to compete in the UIM F4 European Championships. Heading into the weekend’s proceedings the youngster’s confidence was high despite knowing he had a strong battle ahead of him with a World class fleet in attendance at the event.
14 teams representing 11 different nationalities made the journey to see who could claim the 2018 European F4 Crown. With representatives from Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, France, Latvia, Denmark, Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary all joining the Brit in his fight for European glory.
The event itself would consist of Qualification and then four individual heats with the best three results to count. So as the Green flag went up for the qualification to start none of the drivers held back. Throughout qualifying the teams all pushed each other to the limits with only 5 seconds separating the whole fleet and less than a second separating the top four boats we were in for some thrilling racing and the championship crown was anybody’s for the taking.
Sweden’s Morgan Jernfast, the current World Championship leader came to dominate the European campaign and set about laying claim to pole position quickly as the only driver to complete the course with a sub 53 second time. Tuukka Lehtonen of Finland secured second place on the grid with countryman Olle Martin lining up in third ahead of our very own Ben Jelf in 4th.
Still with everything to do Ben had been practising his starts and knew he had the speed off the line to make up at least a couple of places heading into the first heat. And he did just that as the lights went out and they fleet sped away from the jetty Ben got a great start and by the time they rounded the first corner Ben had already moved into second and was chasing down race leader Morgan Jernfast for first. Applying the pressure it wasn’t long before Ben passed the Swedish racer and with clean water ahead the race was his for the taking.
Heat 2 and Ben knew exactly what he had to do. Another strong start and a great line into the first turn and Ben was well away looking for the second win of the day and with his eyes further ahead on the European crown. A phenomenal race from Ben saw him take the second chequered flag of the day and with just one more heat win required the team retired for the evening.
Ben and the team were faced with disastrous news as the second day of competition dawned. As team manager Colin Jelf noticed a split in the transom just before free practice meaning the boat was unsafe to go in the water. An experienced mechanic and Boat racer himself Colin set about making the required repairs to get his son back out on the water and still in with a shot at winning the European crown.
Happy that the boat was repaired enough to compete Ben made it out for the end of the free practice and managed a couple of laps before the end of the session. As the lights went out for the third heat Ben powered away from the jetty with the rest of the fleet but it wasn’t long before his engine began cutting out and he found himself dropping back places, never one to give up ben continued to try to fight back but with continuing problems he was left to finish the race in 6th as he watched Morgan Jernfast and Finland’s Tuukka Lehtonen fight it out for first.
Heading into the final heat and Ben’s European Dreams had all but faded with the deteriorating weather conditions but the young Brit held his head high and headed into the final heat with fighting spirit. A final heat win could see him still claim the crown. Officials opted to shorten the course on the grounds of safety as the winds had increased and conditions were worsening meaning every racer had a new battle to contend with. The fleet powered away Ben was pushing hard and trying to make up places despite still feeling the gremlins in his engine and his bad luck for the weekend was not over as rounding a turn his boat stuffed in to the water and Ben was forced back into 10th position.
The youngster continued to fight to try to make up places but with a poorly boat and engine was forced to finish in 10th and watch his European dreams shatter. Sweden’s Morgan Jernfast took the final two heat wins to secure the European crown and Finland’s Tuukka Lehtonen secured two second places to secure the Silver Medal. With calculations done and the worst of 4 heats dropped a jubilant roar erupted from the British Jelf Racing tent as it was announced that he’d done more than enough despite the trials and tribulations to secure the European Bronze Medal.
Reflecting on a testing weekend the British Bronze Medallist had this to say “Am I disappointed? I’d be lying if I said no! We were short on team members this weekend so Dad and Mum have put a lot of hard work into getting me here this weekend and more than anything I feel disappointed for them. The whole team have been behind me back home and it means a lot but it just wasn’t meant to be this weekend.”
He continued “Unfortunately Powerboat racing can very much be about luck on the day. If we’d raced a third heat yesterday maybe I’d be European champion but also I could have crashed out completely and not be walking away with the Bronze Medal. As a team we did everything we could, so we take the highs and the lows and we learn from it. The boat needs a little TLC but it can be repaired and I’ll come back fighting at the next race even harder. There’s been some great racing this weekend and Morgan and Tuukka both really deserve their podium places so congratulations to both of them and everyone else that competed.”