Round 1 – Wanganui. 27th December 2015.
Clearly there are lots and lots of nice people in the jetsprint community. Several of them are so nice that they appeared at the top of Santa’s “nice” list and were given shiny new boats or beautiful new paint jobs for Christmas.
Unfortunately, we all know what boys do with their new toys: they push them as hard as they can to see how much they can handle. And sadly, a few of the drivers left on Saturday evening with boats that didn’t look quite so shiny and new – and in some cases looking less boat shaped than when they arrived.
However, the weather was just too good for anyone to let a few little dents spoil their mood. It was nice to welcome Team Kiwi back from the World Championship in the USA, and to celebrate their successes over there. Round 1 brought out a good field of competitors in all classes, with lots of well-established teams sitting alongside a large contingent of rookies. Some teams had been testing like crazy in the run-up to the season opener, but some had been waiting on parts right up to Boxing Day so the 27th was a real leap into the unknown for them.
The first qualifying run of the day made sure all the drivers were awake and focused. There were a few teething troubles, and the RSQKRU got a couple of early morning dips in as they raced to help those whose boats weren’t behaving quite as expected. Ross Travers (Radioactive) and Brett Thompson (TNT) both managed to park where they shouldn’t, resulting in a few scrapes (and in Ross’s case a little remodelling of the pointy end – “nothing that won’t buff out” he told us optimistically!), but Harry Wheelans (Usain Boat) went one better by being the first ambulance call out of the day. Both Wheelans and navigator Jason Conroy were fine after the hard-hitting impact that ended their first run. “It was a precautionary check up by St John’s,” Harry said later, “the steering on the new boat was very tight. I turned in too soon a couple of times and it just bit me on the last one.” Luckily the boat survived to run again after some highly technical on-the-spot panel beating (not quite as hardcore as Rob Coley’s after Round 1 of the World Championships) only to give Wheelens and Conroy another roller coaster ride in the 4th qualifier, closely followed by another visit to the St John’s Ambulance. Once again the boys were fine, but that was the end of their racing for the day.
As we all know, girls play more nicely with their toys than the boys do – and it certainly paid dividends for the 2 all-girl teams in the Biolytix 400 class at the start of the day. The first qualifying round saw Donna Thomson and Monica Couper (Two-A-Breast) in second place, and Pip Thompson/Megan Brodie (The Bitches’ Box) sat in third. Thomson and Couper made it all the way through to the top 5 but found themselves 0.8seconds outside the top 3 cut. Thomson looks much more comfortable and confident in her boat this season, and is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Gerry Linklater was back in his boat White Noize, double driving with the NZ1 pairing of Hayden Wilson and Chris Hausman. If Wilson was nervous to be sharing a boat with its owner, or indeed going out to defend his NZ1 position for the first time, he didn’t show it at all. Linklater dropped out at the end of the top 8, while Wilson cut an extra 3 seconds off Linklater’s time to take second spot on the podium.
Top spot honours went to Ross Travers who redeemed himself in spectacular fashion after the most inauspicious of starts to his day. Some quick keel-grinding smoothed out the teething troubles on his new boat, and he put in a blistering run in the top 3 to take the trophy. The fact that there was only a 1.7 second gap between all 3 podium finishers shows the quality of racing that the punters at Shelter View were treated to on Saturday. The Biolytix 400s were closely matched all day, with the top 6 drivers never being more than 2 seconds apart.
The PSP Suntuf Group A class was a different matter this time. Sam Newdick dominated the day, but this time without the close competition that Richard Murray and Paul Gaston gave him last season. On a day when nobody managed to get within 2 seconds of his time, it was clear that only human error or mechanical failure were going to beat him – and he’ll be thanking his lucky stars that neither of them occurred. He didn’t quite get the 46 second run that he was hoping for at the lunch break, but he surely can’t grumble at that stylish first win of the season!
The battle really hots up in the rest of the field though, with only 0.2seconds between Tristan Hynds (Loose Unit Too) and Baden Gray (Teng Tools) who took second and third places respectively. The rest of the top 12 contenders were fighting every inch of the way, with less than half a second separating most of the racers from each other. Russell Dodds (NZ Eagle) and Garry Stephen (Rapids Jet) couldn’t have been much closer if they were riding in the boat together as Dodds had only 9 thousandths of a second advantage over Stephen. Even the rookie team in this class, Andy Ryan and Kariane Allan in The Joker, gave a good showing. Ryan admitted that he might have been a little optimistic in getting straight into a Group A 650hp boat but said that he just wanted to get 5 runs in at Shelter View. With his top 12 placing he managed that and must have been sporting a grin a mile wide under his helmet as he got back to the trailer.
There were fewer grins going round in the Suzuki Grand Vitara Superboats’ pit areas. Glen Head and Darren Todd’s boat certainly lived up to its name (Overtime) over the off-season as they had spent many hours rebuilding and reshaping the hull. It looked as though all their hard work paid off as they scorched through the qualifiers and into the top 8 with their fastest run of the day a very respectable 46.8 seconds. Sadly it all went horribly wrong on their top 8 run, when Head clipped the edge on their way up the centre and they ended up nose first in the bank (quite fittingly at the Suzuki Grand Vitara Corner). You don’t need to be psychic to predict quite a lot more overtime going into the boat before the next round at the end of January.
Disappointments didn’t all come packaged in a spectacular crash at Shelter View this time. Graeme Hill and Tracey Webster (Liquid Gold) looked like giving World Champion and NZ1 Peter Caughey a run for his money until they got lost during their top 12 run and put themselves out of contention. Caughey himself really looked like leaving the rest of the field behind him with 4 of his 5 runs being under 46 seconds, but a broken crankshaft in the top 5 run left him with an engine that simply cut out. Dave Simmons and John Verry (Blue Flame) were caught out when their boat lived up to its name and caught fire in the middle of their 3rd qualifying run. The boys leapt out onto the nearest island with Dave managing to hit the ground first despite being furthest from dry land at the time of the incident, and neither of them the worse for wear (although Verry tested the flame retardant qualities of his race boots thoroughly). The biggest humiliation for Simmons after that was borrowing The Bitches’ Box for the next two runs and not being able to beat Pip Thompson’s times in it!
Rob Coley (Poison Ivy)and Pat Dillon (PPG Hulk) were both glad not to repeat last season’s rather dramatic events where Coley ended up testing the crash fencing and Dillon treated a sponsor to the ride of his life along with 8 barrel rolls and an upside down landing in the spinout pool, although it must be said that Dillon’s wife, Tracey, was even more relieved to see him round in one piece each time.
In fact, Dillon did much better than just finish each run back on the trailer. He took the top podium spot in front of his home crowd with a sub-47 second run. The screaming quad rotor turbo that powers Peter Huijs’s boat Mad Az carried him successfully into second place, and the Wanganui crowd were more than happy to see former local boy Leighton Minnell and his wife Kellie take the 3rd place after a somewhat scenic tour of the circuit in their top 3 run.
The gitS made another appearance during the afternoon, this time taking 3 celebrities out to test their mettle. Scott Moir (Taupo) and Jayden Carrick (Wanganui) continued their Cemetery Circuit battles on the water with Carrick coming out the quicker of the two. He said “It’s so different to riding a motorbike. I was glad of some good advice from experienced drivers – thanks Leighton [Minnell]. And thanks to the gitS. It was awesome.” The third celebrity to take to the circuit was Billy Redmayne, who like the others is more at home on a motorbike and who won the Isle of Man Grand Prix in August this year. He took to jet sprinting like a duck to water, and said later “I didn’t realise how precise the handling was going to be. It was so responsive, and load of fun.” In fact he had so much fun that he took an extra trip around the outside loop on his final run!
All in all the spectators enjoyed a fabulous day of racing with brilliant Wanganui weather capping the day off. With local teams taking 4 of the 9 podium places on offer across the classes, nobody could complain at the results either.
Tristan Hynds (Loose Unit too) will be hoping that home ground advantage holds as the racers all head off to the Enzed Stadium Jetsprints at ASB Baypark, Mt Maunganui on January 24th and 25th 2015. More details on this meeting are available at www.jetsprintbop.com