[Yesterday]’s third round of the 2012 Jetpro Jetsprint championship held near Featherston in the Wairarapa finished early as fine clear weather turned in to torrential rain during the elimination heats, leaving the round winners determined on countback to the top-12 cut off.
The precursor to the two round World Series starting mid February, the Tauherinikau race course aqua track became the second event on the six round calendar to be affected by rain this season. While a few showers and a southerly change were forecast for the region the downpour left organisers with no option but truncate the day while they were contesting the top-eight elimination. Travelling at speeds exceeding 100km/h on the short watercourse, navigation was but one of the issues facing drivers’ as the rain droplets became mini missiles.
Completing the four qualifying rounds earlier in the day gave teams’ a fair chance to learn the course with the category winners being Brett Thompson in the Jetpro Lites, Sam Newdick in the Whitepointer Boats Group A and Leighton Minnell in the Suzuki Superboats.
Wanganui based Leighton and Kellie Minnell struggled in early qualifying, trying to master the course navigation before setting the top time of 44.25 seconds.
“We got it right in the end – when it counted,” said Minnell.
“I was struggling to get the rotation right. We broke an intercom wire after the first qualifying and I couldn’t hear Kellie’s instructions. So it just goes to show how much I rely on the navigator.
“I went in to one qualifier placed ninth. So was having a nightmare time.
“Then we posted the 44 second time, which I expected a 45-46 second time would have taken the day, so I was rapt to get it right and get the time. Because up until then I was chasing Phonsy Mullan, the Australian with his twin-turbo charged powered boat. He’d done a 45.6, Rob Coley had a 47 flat so I had to pull one out to get away from a pear shaped finish.
“Then it rained. But aside from that the boat suited the course. It was a tight, fast course and certainly tricky.
“Now we’ve got one hand on that cup and that’s what we were chasing this weekend. Obviously we’re now looking forward to the worlds and racing Phonsy, Peter Caughey and the others.”
Second fastest was Australian Phonsy Mullan, although not contesting the New Zealand series, the position was awarded to Wanganui’s Rob Coley and navigator Reece Townsend. Lower Hutt’s Ray Ferguson finished third.
The chase for the Whitepointer Boats Group A title has started to widen with Hamilton’s Sam Newdick taking a successive round victory to overtake defending champion Reg Smith for the series lead. Second for the day was Wanganui’s Richard Murray with Thames based Bevan Muir third.
Fortunes changed in the Jetpro Lites category with Brett Thompson taking the round win, to pressure title leader Denis Crene for the lead. Second was Warren Farr with Wanganui’s Gerry Linklater third.
New entrant for the round was female driver Donna Thompson, running the boat previously campaigned by Blair Gibbard.
Queenstown’s Chris Munro was one of the early casualties, crashing his Suzuki Superboat Mackcraft heavily early in the day.
The series takes a temporary break while the back-to-back Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) Wanganui.com World Series begins at the Featherston track on 11 February. Spread over both the Saturday and Sunday, the series then moves to Wanganui the following weekend for the title decider.
The fourth round of the 2012 Jetpro Jetsprint championship will be contested at the Crownthorpe location near Hastings in the Hawke’s Bay on 4 March.