Sunday’s 13 March fourth round of the 2011 Jetpro Jetsprint Championship becomes a critical time for each of the three category leaders who line up to contest a freshly modified water course placed 15 minutes east of Hastings.
Of the six rounds on the season’s jet sprint boating calendar, the 30 championship teams can only score points at five of them. Dropping their worst result from the events contested each of the Jetpro Lites, Scott Waterjet Group A and Suzuki Superboat leaders have serious work ahead to maintain their standing. The irony is two of the three head to the spring fed lagoon in Crownthorpe without a single round win between them.
Winning the recent Meremere round, Wanganui’s Bevan Linklater and navigator Malcolm Ward now have a four point buffer in the Jetpro Lites entry-level category. But their lead is precious little, especially in an elimination style competition.
“Basically for me it’s a case of carrying on doing what we’re doing and hope that’s enough to get us through,” says the Wanganui based electrician. “The championship changes when you can drop your worst round and as it stands now our leading margin could be cut back to one point. So it’s going to be tight right to the end.”
“Being in the top-three is what we’re aiming for at each remaining round. Anything more than that is a bonus – which we hope carries us to the title.”
Leading the Scott Waterjet Group A field with two seconds and a third, Taupo’s Reg and Julie Smith are taking a similar top-three approach, after the demise of Opiki’s Simon Campbell and Gareth Cox from title contention.
“The courses are going to be tighter from here on in so I need to stay in the top-three, said Smith, the series longest serving competitor.
“At last year’s final round we were down ten points and we got to within a point of the lead at the finish. So as long as I stay consistent right through to the final I still think we’ve got a good chance of taking the championship.”
One point ahead of Auckland’s Bevin Muir and navigator Tanya Iremonger, Smith is 13 clear of Jetsprint Association head Andrew Guthrie and navigator Janine Ingram. Fourth in the standings, behind the recently injured Campbell, Guthrie is now in podium contention.
However the Suzuki Superboat category is a wide-open mix – with ten points separating the top-six. Currently headed by Wanganui farmer Duncan Wilson and navigator Jamiee-Lee Lupton, they have two seconds and a fourth. One point ahead of fellow Wanganui team Leighton and Kellie Minnell, they are only two ahead of the rotary engine powered turbo-charged Peter and Gary Huijs boat.
“We’ve been chipping away,” said Wilson, who has frequently been the title bridesmaid. “We’re trying to lift our game a bit - it’d just be nice to get that first place. It’s a matter of sticking with what we’ve got, which obviously delivers when you look at the times. We’ve just had instances of bad luck, like at Meremere when we broke blades in the jet-unit. Once we’d put a new one in it was a different game again.”
Featuring the addition of a hair-pin turn to the 24 corners the drivers and navigators must memorise, the teams get four qualifying runs before the elimination heats begin. Starting at 9am, the action breaks at noon for lunch. Public then get a chance to walk the pit area and look at the boats close up. Elimination runs begin at 1:30pm, starting with the top-12. The field is gradually whittled down to a top-three run to find the podium placers by 4pm.