Two husband and wife Kiwi teams’ have won their respective category titles to claim the UIM Wanganui.com World Series jet sprint championship honours near Wanganui today.
Wanganui’s Leighton and Kellie Minnell set second fastest time in the Superboat category, scoring enough points for their title while Taupo’s Reg and Julie Smith won their International Group A class in similar fashion victory.
Against a number of Australian, one Canadian and 18 other Kiwi teams’ the pair will be crowned this evening at a Gala dinner in Wanganui. Second in the Superboat category was a tie between Lower Hutt’s Ray Ferguson and Australia’s Phonsy Mullan. Group A runner-up was V8Supercar driver Nathan Pretty, with Hamilton’s Sam Newdick third, finishing outside the top-three run-off for the day.
Starting today’s final of two rounds, Minnell and Smith led their respective classes by a solitary point. Needing to finish ahead of their opposition, it was instead 2009 Superboat champion Peter Caughey and Group A campaigner Burt as outsiders who bettered times set by the new champions.
“She was a hard day at the office! The racing today was always going to be tough and there were battles on everywhere. Battles between the hydraulic hose brands, battles for the world title and battles against the ex, Caughey,” said Minnell of the Hydraulink team against Caughey’s ENZED backing.
“There was a lot of pressure and now we’ve got our name on a cup alongside some legendary sports people – it’s onward and upwards from here.
“I was so focused on the racing it took a while to sink in we’d won to be honest. It wasn’t until I’d gotten out of the boat and the TV cameras arrived along with well-wishers, the emotion kicked in.
“I was just so glad to have my wife beside me all day to keep me calm really and keep my head in the right place – so it’s as much hers.”
Sharing similar feelings, Reg and Julie Smith have used the win to conclude their career at World Series level. Smith has contested every event since the title’s inception in 1997.
“It’s an awesome awesome feeling; I can’t really explain it really. We were sitting on the launch ramp waiting to see what time Nathan Pretty set and when we heard we were faster it was an ecstatic moment.
“When we got in to the top-three run-off we knew we had a bite at the title. If we came third and Nathan first it would have gone down to a run-off between us to clear the tie position. So when we heard the time the whole team just erupted that not only we didn’t need to run-off but that we’d won – it was a fantastic feeling to go out on.
“Also that Leighton and Kellie Minnell took the title in the Superboat was a double-whammy for the Kiwis’. We’ve taken the whole World Series – that’s awesome!”
Spectators at the Shelter View jet sprint track, north of the river city were treated to more than just on-track action. Wanganui local Peter Huijs left the water at high speed to bring his day to an early end. Additionally New Zealand Lites category competitors also challenged for a subsidiary title. Piopio’s Brent Thompson set fastest time in the final for the round trophy.
New Zealand competitors will now return to contesting the Jetpro championship title, where the next round will be held at Hastings Crownthorpe track on Sunday 4 March.