This weekend’s penultimate round of the 2010 Jetpro Jetsprint Championship races under lights for the first time at Wanganui’s Shelterview water course on Saturday 10 April.
A new innovation to the six round series, illuminating the venue used by the 32 teams contesting the New Zealand title series could well upset title aspirations.
With many of the boats in each of the Suzuki super boat, Scott Waterjet Group A and Jetpro Lites categories accelerating from 0-100 kilometres/hour in less than three seconds, the elimination style shoot-out affords no second chances.
Following the installation of permanent lighting towers in and around the track, the regular feature to the jet sprinting championship calendar now boasts a night event after a successful trial by the Wanganui organisers at Easter 2009.
“Looking at the rotation it will be interesting: lots of hair-pins and a few fast sections – which will be challenging in the super boat,” said series leader and defending champion Richard Burt of Palmerston North.
One of the few who did run at the pilot event, albeit in the loaned Scott Waterjet Group A category boat of Opiki’s Simon Campbell, Burt says there are many unknown’s for the night race.
“We don’t know what the glare might be like – when you’re trying to pick which is land and which is water, then when you cross back over a wave – again being able to identify the two.”
Now with a ten point lead over Wanganui’s Leighton and Kellie Minnell in the standings, Burt and navigator Roger Maunder could easily lose their advantage. Burt has proven mechanical reliability and navigation accuracy are equally as important as setting fastest time. Constantly damaging cylinder head gaskets in the methanol fuelled 1000 horsepower V8 engine, round honours could be just as easily be picked by marble draw from a strong Wanganui contingent. With Minnell still rueing from an engine explosion prior to the series third round, Suzuki super boat locals Pat Dillon, Duncan Wilson and Jamie Cooper are all within 15 points of the title lead - chasing 30 for a win.
Similarly, the lead currently held by Auckland’s Baden Gray and navigator Tanya Iremonger has come under threat by defending champion and Scott Water Group A boat co-driver Bevin Muir and his navigator – Kathy Barker. Following three straight round wins, Gray narrowly missed out on a fourth. Placed between the pair, Taupo’s ever-green Reg Smith and navigating wife Julie, trail Gray by nine points and lead Muir by one.
“From a night race point-of-view, experience is probably a bad thing,” says Smith. “I’ve raced under lights before and haven’t liked it – although that was on brown water with brown banks. With the green grass and nice clear water at Wanganui it may not be an issue at all.”
Maintaining his competitive streak, Smith, who shares the boat with Wellington pairing of Phil Wheelans and Darren Judd, says it’s all on the line for this weekend: “I’ve been keeping in touch all season and wanted to get that win at Hastings. That was important to me – and we showed we were close having been the benchmark most of the day. Now it’s get out there and get after it – I have to.”
Similar tactics pass to the entry-level Jetpro Lites, with Whangamata’s Ray Thompson and navigator David Toms currently enjoying a two-point lead in the standings over defending champions David Stone and Steve Greaves of Bulls.
“It’s going to be fairly difficult. I’ve never done night before – so will be interesting to see what happens,” said the driver of the 408 cubic inch V8 powered boat.
“Basically I’m going to see how we get on with driving it at night and work it out from there. If it goes alright we’ll definitely attack, but there is the if.”
Qualifying rounds begin in the early afternoon with a dinner break at 6pm. The top-16 elimination run is scheduled for 7pm – dependant on sun glare before the recently erected lighting towers take over.
Aimed at family groups, the venue’s amphitheatre style creates a picnic atmosphere with continual action front and centre. Tickets are available on the www.v8jetsprints.co.nz website for $15.00 per adult, gate sales on the day are $20.00 (the on-line tickets are only available until Tuesday 6th April to allow time to post them).
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Directions: From Wanganui on SH4 head north toward Kaiwhaki Road, signs direct traffic past the township of Upokongaro.
2010 Jetpro New Zealand Jetsprint Championships Standings - Drivers (after round four of six) - top three.
Suzuki Superboat Class
Pos No. Name Points
1 1NZ Richard Burt, Palmerston North, 116
2 3NZ Leighton Minnell, Wanganui, 106
3= 74 Pat Dillon, Wanganui, 103
3= 2NZ Duncan Wilson, Wanganui, 103
Scott Water Jet Group A Class
Pos No. Name Points
1 3NZ Baden Gray, Auckland, 119
2 30 Reg Smith, Taupo, 110
3 1NZ Bevin Muir, Thames, 109
Jetpro Lites Class
Pos No. Name Points
1 24 Ray Thompson, Whangamata, 118
2 1NZ Dave Stone, Bulls, 116
3 13 Graeme Jones, New Plymouth, 104