Leading this weekend’s 27 February third round of the Jetpro Jetsprint Championship, the rotary engine powered boat of Wanganui’s Peter Huijs is top-billed of the 30 teams contesting the Meremere round south of Auckland.
With a one point lead in the Suzuki Superboat category after two of the six rounds on the 2011 championship calendar, Huijs shot to notoriety after an outright upset win early in the month at the Gisborne event.
Against V8 powered and mainly Wanganui based competition, Huijs and navigator Garry, have the benefit of reliability despite their debuting of the world’s first quad-rotor turbo-charged sprint boat combination. Which the Wanganui businessman says is starting to pay dividends in the unlimited engine category:
“My expectation is do well and finish the day – firstly. I’ve done a lot of work on the jet unit and hull – to understand it better and streamline it. We’re still toying with it – just making small changes, which will take the whole season to get it closer to where we want it to be. So hopefully we’ll be getting closer in time to the top dogs, but at least it’s reliable – which is essential – you have to finish every meeting,” said Huijs.
Hard on his heels in second position, Wanganui farmer Duncan Wilson and navigator Jamiee-Lee Lupton have often been the more consistent performers, except when back luck strikes. Capitalising on the ill-fate of their peers, Rotorua pairing Nick and Richelle Berryman are two points behind Huijs – and in the clutches of Wanganui teams Pat Dillon/Steve Edmonds and Leighton/Kellie Minnell who are back to make amends.
Of the three competition categories chasing championship honours, only Scott Waterjet Group A driver Simon Campbell has a clear break on the competition. Following back-to-back wins, the Opiki potato farmer is three points ahead of a tied Reg/Julie Smith from Taupo and Auckland based Baden Gray/Tanya Iremonger.
Returning after a year away from the series, Campbell is fully aware one mistake in any of the early elimination rounds could drop him from title contention:
“The competition is pretty tough, so if I can make it three from three I’ll be pretty happy. It’d be nice to have more of a points’ advantage, but with Baden (Gray) and Reg (Smith) right there if I miss the top-three cut one or both are going to pass me in the championship probably,” said Campbell. Additionally, the teams have a unique challenge to counter: “It’s different to other tracks, where they’ve got fairly clean water – Meremere is a clay based track, so the water gets a lot thicker and heavier, and the boat handles differently.”
Also casting upsets in to the mix, entry-level Jetpro Lites teams have provided plenty of action. Currently headed by Wanganui’s Bevan Linklater and navigator Malcolm Ward, their two point lead came after previous leader Graeme and Scott Jones of New Plymouth missed the top-three cut at Gisborne. While consistent, Linklater has yet to score a win this season, having been beaten by both Jones and Whangarei’s Denis/Jo Crene.
Following a twilight 1/8mile meeting on the Saturday at the adjacent Fram Autolite Dragway, Sunday’s full day of water-based competition starts with four qualifying runs around the 30-turn permanent water-course. Eliminations start at 1:45pm, with the 12 fastest shooting out for a chance to progress to the top-eight, top-five and top-three finale late in the afternoon.