Marking the half-way point in the 2012 Jetpro Jetsprint Championship, this weekend’s 22 January third round being held at Featherston’s Tauherinikau race course is also a precursor to the first round of the 2012 World Series.
Also being held at the Wairarapa permanent aqua track mid-February, it’s the New Zealand title on the minds of most in each of the Suzuki Superboat, Whitepointer Boats Group and Jetpro Lites water-jet propelled sprint boat categories.
Chasing 30 points for a round win, each of the competition categories has less than a three point gap between first and second place holders. Additionally, each of this season’s six rounds count toward the final title.
While the top-three in the Suzuki Superboat category all share the same Wanganui home town, leaders and defending champions Leighton and Kellie Minnell say this Sunday will be all about winning.
“Two things; obviously team Hydraulink are after another victory to get one hand on the national title cup and repeat last year’s result,” said Leighton Minnell.
“Goal number two is to have a good crack at the world title and to do that is time in the boat. Each time we’re out there I’m getting a little more comfortable and can get a bit more out of it. To us, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. So we’re not going to take it easy on Sunday, we’ve got to push on so we’re at that pointy end for when we’re back there in February for the world’s.”
Having seven boats setting times less than a second apart, Whitepointer Boats Group A top-four are separated by a mere five points. Headed by defending champions Reg and Julie Smith from Taupo, the one point gap to Hamilton’s Sam Newdick is shaping up to make the class the closest for the race to the title. Wanganui’s Richard Murray and Thames Bevin Muir are tied for third.
Entry-level Jetpro Lites category leaders Denis and Steve Crene from Whangarei are under similar pressure with Whangamata’s Ray Thompson and Australian Paul Gaston a mere three points tied from the top step. The gaggle of 500 horsepower competitors are ahead of defending champion Bevan Linklater from Wanganui, who trails Crene by ten points.
“The goal really is to stay at the top,” says Crene. “It would be nice to come away with another win and that’s our aim.
“I’ve never done anything like it before, this is my only motorsport. I thought why not, give it a go and see what happens – then I can tick that box. It would be nice to tick it with a championship though.”
The northern most competitor in the series, Crene says each event is ‘away’: “The home track is Meremere and that’s a three hour drive each way so it’s a long-haul anywhere I go. Generally it’s a two-day trip; I’ll stop half-way down and then cruise the next day to the track.”
Needing to memorise 22 turns that will make up the racing course, each team gets four qualifying runs to perfect their navigation. Elimination heats begin in the afternoon, starting with the top-12 fastest from qualifying, which will cut to eight, then top-five with the final three shooting out for the podium.
Spectator entry opens at 11am, tickets are $20 for adults, children 5-15 years $5, under five years are free. The Tauherinikau race course is sign posted for spectator entry and is located 4.5 kilometres north of Featherston on SH2.