The RaceWKND junior powerboat race series, run specifically for seven- to 12-year-olds, has in recent years tripled in size and popularity. We head to Finland to report on the championship race and young Sisu Seliö’s resounding GT10 win.

At a lavish gala dinner held at the legendary Haikko Manor and Wellness Spa in Porvoo, near Helsinki, the Finnish Sailing & Boating Association held a joint prize-giving ceremony for powerboat racing and watercraft. Among those racers receiving an award was the Sharjah Team’s Sisu Seliö, who became the first ever UIM GT10 Finnish champion.

Sisu Seliö, whose father Sami races in the F1H2O world championship for the Sharjah Team, secured the Finnish championship by just two points from the reigning GT10 Nordic champion, Valter Laine. Of the four-round series organised and promoted by RaceWKND, Seliö took the top step of the winners’ podium at Rauma and again at Vaasa, which was the young racer’s favourite race venue.

Sisu Selio (left) GT10 Winner/Team Sharjah

Originally called the SJ-15 Junior Class, it was first established back in 1988 in Finland by Sisu’s grandfather, Niilo Seliö, who along with the Finnish Motorboat Federation created it with the idea of giving young children a similar opportunity to the one ‘go-karting’ gave those who wanted to start car racing but preferred to race on water. The following season, the class run for 12- to 15-year-olds attracted 14 entries.

From two to four

For the first 10 years the class ran with 15hp 2-stroke engines, but by 1998, boats were appearing with 15hp 4-stroke engines. Then, in 2002, all the engines were changed to 4-stroke, and by 2017 the class was changed to run only 10hp 4-stroke engines. The first year that the RaceWKND series ran this new class was 2018, attracting just five drivers. This year they have tripled their entry, such is the popularity of the class now run for seven- to 12-year-olds.

Nuppu Böhmig, one of the RaceWKND promoters, said: ‘New drivers come every year, and we have found the best way to get the kids to drive is to run “Try-Out Days”, and then hopefully we can enrol them into our academy. That’s how we get the kids in Finland onto the water.’

Following much canvassing from both the Finnish Sailing & Boating Association and its chairman, Sami Seliö, the sport’s international governing body, the Union Internationale Motonautique, has finally now recognised the class.

All of Sami Seliö’s children have competed in the Optimist sailing class, which, having been originally designed back in 1947, has since become one of the biggest ‘one-design’ boat categories in sailing. Now Seliö believes that this GT10 class will become the ‘Optimist’ of the powerboat racing world.

The missing class

‘GT10 was the UIMʼs “missing” class where young children can take their first step into “real” powerboat racing,’ he said. ‘The most important thing is that it makes the starting point of this sport both level and as easy as possible for everyone. This class does not require any specific skills from the driver or parents or mechanics, and provides a good foundation and knowledge of the sport.’

The class is powered by 4-stroke factory-made carburettor engines from either Yamaha, Mercury or Tohatsu, producing an approximate race speed of 45km/h. The only approved hull is a Speedrace boat complying with the specification in the UIM homologation file. Several UIM national federations, including Lithuania, Portugal and Sharjah, have already purchased a set of moulds from Finland to produce the hulls. More countries have shown an interest, including Ireland, Estonia, Norway, Egypt and Fujairah.

Sisu Selio GT10 Winner

‘With the class being an official UIM one, we see its future as being bright,’ said Böhmig. ‘Our GT10 racers were so excited to travel last year to Lithuania to race with the drivers from the academy run by the UIM European F2 champion and president of the Lithuanian Motorboat Federation, Edgaras Riabko. Our young powerboaters can’t wait to get to more international events. So Finland is ready to rock in the GT10 class.’

Sisu Selio

In reverse

Böhmig continued by saying that to teach these young drivers good ‘race craft’ skills they always reverse the top 10 on the starting grid after each of their four heats. That way they all get the chance to learn to safely overtake each other during the race. ‘We now have four Finnish drivers; racing in the F1H2O world championship, considered the pinnacle of circuit racing, Sami Seliö for the Sharjah Team, Filip Roms for Gillman Racing and Team Sweden’s Kalle Viippo. They all started their racing career in this type of class, which means our young drivers can all see where one day they could be racing.’ In the meantime, Sisu Seliö will continue racing in GT10. ‘I love going racing,’ he said. ‘It’s hard when they reverse the grid but it’s fun trying to catch people, then trying to pass them. Some weekends are really tricky, like in Jyväskylä where I broke the engine’s midsection. But the team fixed it and I then went out and won the final heat. I wish there were more races next year because they are fun.’

The Sharjah Team will also start testing sessions for him as he prepares to move up to the GT15 category, possibly also developing a new hull fitted with a halo-type safety device in the process.

Sami Seliö concluded by saying: ‘In the GT10 class, children can start learning the basics of competing in a safe as well as an equal class. After that, it will be much easier for them to move on to the GT15 class, which is already more demanding. Then it’s GT30, Formula Four, Formula 2 and perhaps one day they will win the F1H2O world championship title for Finland.’

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