Belgium is Back

With just ten days to go till qualifying gets under way for the Belgium Grand Prix, Antwerp is getting ready to host one of the largest entries ever seen in the UIM F2 Powerboat World Championship. One man, who is looking forward to welcoming teams from fourteen different nations, will the President of the Fédération Belge Motonautique (FBM), Jean-Marie Van Lancker.

Back in 2000, he headed up the organisation behind the Versatel Grand Prix of Belgium, the second round of the UIM Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship, which attracted over 80,000 spectators to the Scheldt quays. With such a huge turn out, you have to ask why does he think it has taken seventeen years for Belgium to host another round of a circuit World Championship.

It certainly wasn’t easy back then to find sponsors

said Van Lancker.

When you told people how much money you needed to run an F1 race they just ran away. Unfortunately over the last decade the situation hasn’t really improved and its taken time to find interested party’s to go for it again.

Following his venture into F1 Van Lancker, who was once quoted as saying that ‘he was captivated by everything that flies drives and sails’, headed back to his passion of offshore powerboat racing, where for over the past twenty-seven years he’s developed a reputation for getting the job done. Back in the 1990’s he was the key figure in the organisational structure at the Class 1 races in Ostend.

I was the one who worked the whole year on the complete structure

he said

In some of the year’s it was only because of my effort that the race could happen. The only way to succeed then was to spend the money carefully, like it was my money.

Later on he helped organise the Red Sea Rib Rally for four successful years, an event that he would often compete in racing for a Dubai based team. Then in 2004, when Powerboat P1 came looking for a Safety Officer for their series, Van Lancker’s name was at the top of their list.

Powerboating is enormously spectacular, but we must all realise that the risk of accidents is relatively large, so everyone must make the rules of safety their first priority.

The following season P1 made him their Race Director till after eight years of promoting the sport at the highest level across fourteen countries and four continents the P1 Chairman, Asif Rangoonwala and his management team turned their attention to developing the P1 Panther 28-SS series.

Around that time Van Lancker decided to retire from his job as an Electronic Engineer with the Belgian Air Force. A role that had seen him take part in operations during the two Gulf wars and humanitarian activities in Africa and the Middle East.

My thirty-three years with the Hercules C-130 were fantastic and I am very thankful to our Air Force for the great time I had there. Now I have more time to go forward with the UIM, especially after I was elected as President of COMINOFF for the next four years during last year’s UIM General Assembly. My role is to make offshore bigger again and to look for safe and fair races. I believe it will be possible because the interest is still out there and the economic situation is finally getting better.

So what can the race teams expect when they arrive in Antwerp?

Well next Friday is the Belgian National Day

said Van Lancker,

when we celebrate our independence from Dutch rule. So the city will be in party mood for the whole weekend. I really hope we see the same number of spectators that we had all those years ago because Guy Van den Broeck and his race organisation has the intention of making this Grand Prix an annual event, so let us hope that it’s a worthwhile success for all involved.

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