An engine explosion in the boat used by the current leader of the Suzuki super boat category of the Jetpro Jetsprint series – Leighton Minnell, has seen support come from an unlikely corner.
Minnell, from Wanganui, conceded he and navigating wife Kellie would be unable to start the weekend’s third event in the six round competition, until current series champion Richard Burt from Palmerston North made a title-saving offer.
With the pair having taken a round win each in the 2010 series, Minnell grabbed the points advantage over the Palmerston North funeral director – keen to again push his often faster arch rival at this weekend’s round near Meremere.
However preparations early in the week saw the 500 cubic inch Chev engine in Minnell’s super boat fail in spectacular fashion, leaving the Wanganui businessman ruing any chance of holding the coveted title.
“We thought we were best prepared we could for this weekend; we were testing on the river the engine went bang – the crankshaft let go and destroyed basically everything inside the motor,” described Minnell.
“It was a big explosion; I expected to see rods poking out the block.”
Hearing of his compatriot’s woe, Burt made the call to offer his boat for Minnell to start the weekend round. Under Jet Sprint Association rules, Minnell need only complete a solitary lap at the Sunday event to score toward the title – at worst 21 points.
“Richard rang me straight away and has been helping me try to find bits; good on him – a great sportsman to pick up the phone and offer us a ride, that’s the good thing about the sport – at the end of the day it could happen to any of us.”
“Grabbing 21 points will leave us at least in second from what I can calculate, regardless of who wins.”
Quipping about the explosion, Minnell said the boat called ‘Hummer Time’ has turned to ‘bummer-time’.
Expecting over 30 teams to compete on Sunday 21 February for the championship event, the Meremere course is one of the most challenging with the water containing a higher concentration of mud that adds to the slip level of the water. Frequently the scene of the most dramatic water departing incidents, recent track changes will add prudence to the pressures of championship contention with only one of the three competition categories showing a clear leader.
Usually headlined by Burt in the Suzuki super boats category with unlimited horsepower, there are classes for Scott Waterjet international Group A and entry-level Jetpro Lites.
One of the best viewing tracks in the country with large embankments, Sunday’s action starts at 11am, with entry $20 for adults, $10 for under-15 or $50 for a family pass (two adults plus kids). During the 30 minute lunch break at noon there is an opportunity for spectators to walk through the pit area and for those who would like to try their hand, there will be a V8 Supercar simulator on site.
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2010 Jetpro Jetsprint championship points (after round two of six)
Suzuki Superboat Class - 2010 New Zealand Jetsprint Championships
Pos No. Name Points
1 47 Leighton Minnell, Wanganui, 59
2 97 Richard Burt, Palmerston North, 56
3 88 Jamie Cooper, Wanganui, 50
4 2NZ Duncan Wilson, Waitotara, 48
5 74 Pat Dillon, Wanganui, 47
6 89 Chris Munro, Queenstown, 29
7 94 Brent White, Lower Hutt, 27
8 98 Rob Coley, Wanganui, 22
Scott Water Jet Group A Class - 2010 New Zealand Jetsprint Championships
Pos No. Name Points
1 3NZ Baden Gray, Auckland, 60
2 30 Reg Smith, Taupo, 56
3 1NZ Bevin Muir, Thames, 50
4 15a Sam Newdick, Hamilton, 49
5 51 Ray Fergusson, Lower Hutt, 48
6 52 Blake Briant, Gisborne, 47
7 41 Garry Smith, Featherston, 46
8 30a Phil Wheelans, Wellington, 39
9 39 Andrew Guthrie, Levin, 39
10 43 Richard Murray, Wanganui, 38
11 111 Mark Newdick, Hamilton, 33
12 41a Mark Shirtliff, Lower Hutt, 32
13 18L Blair Gibbard, Levin, 30
14 40 Shane Wood, Lower Hutt, 30
15 36 Brian Donald, Nelson, 29
16 49 Jeff White, Wanganui, 14
Jetpro Lites Class - 2010 New Zealand Jetsprint Championships
Pos No. Name Rd 1 Rd 2 Points
1 24 Ray Tompson, Whangamata, 59
2 3NZ Dave Stone, Bulls, 59
3 13 Graeme Jones, New Plymouth, 54
4 11 Gerry Linklater, Wanganui, 52
5 14 Steve Fouhy, Turakina, 47
6 21 Bill Swan, Lower Hutt, 42
7 28 Karl Draper, Wellington, 24
8 27 Peter Huiys, Wanganui, 22
9 11a Bevan Linklater, Wanganui, 21
10 22 Phil Mulvay, Wanganui, 0