The PSP New Zealand Jet Sprint Championship for 2015/16 got well and truly underway with Round 1 at the ENZED Meremere Speed Bowl on Saturday the 12th December.
A much anticipated start to the 2016 race season with a very busy off season for most teams. A mix of new boats for existing teams and some all new teams entering the championship has attracted a lot of interest with the upcoming UIM ENZED World Championship position hustle.
The Biolytix Group B Championship has seen its fair share of new and improved equipment to the class, evident through the time sheets all day. The new teams of Greg Reardon/Dawn Erb and Murray Chitock/Paul Knuiman got to grips with handling their machines and learning the challenging Meremere layout very quickly and showed great potential of these two teams being not far away from shaking up the pointy end of the field. Tim and Debbie Edhouse (Owhango Motors) showed some early form in the ex Baden Gray Stinger hull, along with Patrick and Jay Haden (Enviroline NZ) in their brand new Stinger and HRE engine combination. Tim and Debbie got the upper hand at the end of qualifying and nabbed the 3rd spot heading into the elimination runs. Last season's 3NZ pairing of Hayden Wilson and Chris Hausman(Engine Reconditioners) rounded out qualifying in second position, while current 1NZ in the Biolytix Group B class, Ross and Shane Travers (Radio Active) sat just over 2 seconds ahead of Wilson after the final qualifier.
The Group A class with its new sponsoring partner of Altherm Window Systems has also had a shake up within the ranks. Long term campaigners of Bevin and Kathy Muir in their Teng Tools Stinger came out swinging and Bevin was keen to show that his recent birthday wasn't about to slow him down any. Ollie Silverton and Jess Sit made a welcome debut in the highly competitive Altherm Group A class aboard their PSP Stinger hull, along with Neil Marshall/ Michelle Reid in their Eagle Automotive Stinger. The familiar faces of 222 Racing's Ric Burke and Alf Kil turned up in a not so familiar package. Debuting the all new Sprintec G-Force hull, it didn’t take the boys long to sort out the track and start posting sub 50 second laps. The formidable force of the class in previous seasons has been Team PSP's current 1NZ Sam Newdick and Glen Mason. Again showing the early form that earns Sam "the smiling assassin" reputation by posting some strong qualifying laps throughout the morning. The standout however, last year's 3NZ pairing of Blake Briant and Kate Hoogerbrug have made no illusions of their intentions this season...they wont be bringing a knife to gunfight. The Harvest Transport machine threw down a 48.23 in the first qualifier, the fastest lap of any boat in the first round. Finishing up the qualifying session in the top spot was Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug (Harvest Transport/Performance Automotive) followed by Sam Newdick/Glan Mason(PSP, Magnum Automotive), and in 3rd spot Bevin and Kathy Muir (Teng Tools).
Suzuki Superboat has also gone through a hectic off season. Boat swaps, new hulls, new teams and new engines have seen workshops all over the country working hard to find the edge needed to succeed in this ultimate class. New teams of Robert White/Anthony Bradley (Sprintec) and Scott Donald/Nicole Reesman (Sprintec) added to the mix showing they have the skills needed by posting qualifier laps early on in the session. Garry Stephen and Damon Murray have stepped up from Group A this season by fitting the blown small block into Rapids Jet. Another one to step up a class is past Group A Champion Richard Murray and new navigator Jo Rathbone in the Mean Machine. This boat is not only a crowd favourite with its distinctive sound, it is the current 1NZ boat and the ex Hulk of Pat Dillon. The Mean Machine clipped the inside of a bank at the top end of the track late in qualifying, sending Richard and Jo off track and up on its side, one of the only bigger off’s of qualifying. More usual suspects filled the entry sheets, but with a few changes to what we're used to seeing. Leighton Minnell (Taranki Hardcore), previous NZ and World Champion turned up not only with new navigator to Superboat Louise Blythe, but with a twin turbo'd small block Stinger combination, and posting some strong numbers straight off the trailer. Glen Head and Darren Todd (Altherm Window Systems) current 3NZ has had a very busy off season, transplanting the team's twin turbo powerplant into a brand new Sprintec hull. Glen adjusted his driving style very quickly to adapt and proved the team will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016. Peter Caughey/Sharma Puturanui (ENZED/Trojan/Sprintec) turned up as usual ready for business after making various changes to the 570ci smallblock and Sprintec Hull combination. The pairing headed out for the first round of qualifying and looking very casual posted a time in the sub 50 second bracket, the only superboat to do so of that round. Glen and Darren(Team Altherm) rounded out qualifying in 3rd position, just under 2 tenths off Leighton Minnell/Louise Blythe (Taranaki Hardcore), with Peter Caughey and Sharma Putarunui (ENZED/Trojan/Total/Sprintec) blitzing the closest time by more than 2 seconds, and setting the fastest time of the day with his final qualifying time.
Eliminations got underway with the top 12 and it was clear that drivers had the track sorted and were keen to post some hot laps early on. The only real mishap of the top 12 was multiple New Zealand and World Champion Peter Caughey in his ENZED/Trojan/Sprintec who had set some blistering times all trough qualifying. In making some changes to the boat in the off season, the PCR team were looking for the ultimate set up for Meremere’s mix of high speed sections and driving technicality. After making a slight change to the tune up of the hull, the boat turned in slightly more than the previous run at the infamous entry of the speed bowl and they clipped a tyre on the inside. The speed was high and the boat was sent off track in spectacular fashion, rolling twice before coming to rest on the outfield. Mal Clunie’s Rescue Crew and St John Ambulance were immediately on the scene to check over Peter and Sharma and they both walked away battered but otherwise ok. This was the first time Peter Caughey had been upside down in his 26 years of racing.
The Top 8 Eliminator saw the lap times drop and thumb screws applied as teams stated to get serious and find some lines around the fast flowing Meremere circuit. Murray Chittock/Paul Knuiman in Sonic Boom was having their best run of the day in their Stinger hull and LS engine combination before a navigational error saw them DNF, while Greg Reardon /Dawn Erb in their Railway Hotel Inglewood Mackraft hull set their personal best time of the day. A battle was starting to shape between the 2 all girl teams of Pip Thompson/Megan Brodie in their brand new Stinger hull against the pairing of Donna Thompson/Monica Couper in Two-a-breast with Donna Thompson coming out on top in the session by just on half a second. Hayen Wilson/Chris Hausman (Engine Reconditioners) came off the trailer for a start and had an issue with weed in the intake which got them a chance to head back to the trailer to remove the blockage while Pat and Jay Hayden(Enviroline NZ) and Ross Travers (Radio Active) went about finishing the session on top. The White Noize team of Wilson/Hausman were unable to get back in the water on time after having the clock put on them, resulting in a DNS.
Bevin and Kathy Muir(Teng Tools) came out on a flyer in the Altherm Group A class, only to go the wrong way late in the lap, Bevin was desperately trying to get back on track with Kathy showing him the way but to no avail ending in a DNF. Ric Burke/Alf kil (Kiwi Addiction Racing), Warren Farr/Ben Thomas (Metframe) and Si Gibbon/Paul Thompson (Novus Glass) were locked in their own battle all putting in times in the 49’s. Just over 3 tenths separated these teams with Harry Wheelans (Jac Trucks) and Ollie Silverton (PSP) both posting early 50’s. It was clear at this point that Current Champ Sam Newdick (PSP) and Blake Briant (Harvest Transport) were going to be locked in their own battle, Blake coming out on top of the exchange by just under a second back to Sam.
The Suzuki Superboat field was settling into some rhythm and finding their way round the track at speed with most teams spread in the 47’s & 48’s. Rob Coley fresh from his recent return from the Australian Championship where he claimed 2nd in the Aussie Titles was coming to grips with the set up and the challenges of the track, and fired a shot to the rest with a 46:95. Glen Head showed he had the skills by returning fire in his new Team Altherm Sprintec by laying down a 46:13, the quickest of the session. Leighton Minnel/Louise Blythe (Taranaki Hardcore) finished the session in 3rd in the twin turbo’d Stinger and was entertaining to watch as the power of the machine exposed Leightons skills and proved he has what it takes to man handle this beast. Nick Berryman/Tanya Iremonger (NZ Riverjet) also posted an impressive time of 47:88 in his newly repaired Stinger hull from his spectacular exit to last season’s Baypark Stadium event.
The Top 5 Eliminator saw more of the same jostling for position across all classes, but with a difference to what we’re used to seeing. The top 5 generally shows the teams heading out for one last shot at setup, and drivers pedalling just shy of ten tenths. This normally produces some spectacular action and mistakes as the pressure is applied through the session. This top 5 eliminator did not produce any big mistakes, crashes or DNF’s, instead showed the upmost skill of these drivers and teams have of setting up the machines and going into battle at the top level of racing. The only drama in the Top 5 was in the Altherm Group A class when Sam Newdick (PSP) failed to appear on the ramp. While attempting a blade change the PSP Team found a problem with the jet unit that put them out of play for the day, leaving Blake Briant/Kate Hoogerbrug to head out and set themselves as clear leaders at that point.
Finals time and the pressure was on in the Biolytix Group B, Tim and Debbie Edhouse (Owhango Motors) trailed Pat and Jay Haden (Enviroline NZ) with Ross and Shane Travers (Radio Active) setting the pace by just over a second. Tim Edhouse out first set a PB for the day with a 52:59, followed by Pat Haden who drove an impressive lap to post a 50:61. Leaving Ross and Shane Travers to come out and do what they’d done all day, their time going into the final was a 49:53. Ross also drove an impressive first half of the lap before a mechanical issue slowed them up, they crossed the line with a 53:15 leaving Pat and Jay Haden taking the win followed by Tim and Debbie Edhouse.
Altherm Group A saw Ric Burke and Alf Kil head out in the new Sprintec G-Force with the pressure showing as Ric gave his all to better the lap and get a gap to Warren Farr. Ric went slightly slower than his top 5 result but drove a hard lap. Next up was Warren Farr and Ben Thomas (Metframe) in their new Stinger hull, Warren came out of the blocks hard chasing down Ric Burke, Warren also feeling the pinch and turned the boat around at the top corner giving himself ending in a DNF. Blake Briant was last out, he had not put a foot wrong all day and Kate’s navigation had him on track every run. Blake came out and drove a near perfect lap as he had done for the duration. He didn’t go as fast as his Top 8 run but came across the line with a 45:67 seeing him going in to pick up the checkers for a victory lap.
Suzuki Superboat was a battle of attrition with the last 3 ready to face off. Rob Coley and Kellie Minnell in the Mouthfresh Sprintec headed out to start the final. Rob has never been known to leave much on the table and this run was no exception, he came out hard and fast and looked sharp. At the midpoint of the run it looked as if the boat had bogged slightly out of the hairpin but he picked it up again and kept pushing. The Mouthfresh team posted a time of 46:64. Next up was the pair of Leighton Minnell and Louise Blythe in the newly assembled Taranaki Hardcore boat. This boat had only fired that morning so to get through to the final of the opening round was no mean feat. Leighton with his experience of high pressure situations came out hard and drove an impressive lap man handling the Stinger Hull around the treacherous Meremere Circuit, with a big cheer from the crowd they crossed the line with a 46:39 and a guaranteed 2nd place with one to go. Again, another newly assembled package of Glen Head and Darren Todd in the Team Altherm Sprintec came to the line as proceeded to drive a clean and confident final lap and setting the best time of their day with a 45:07 and taking the win at the opening round.
With teams having some benchmarks and some unknowns now answered, focus turns to Wanganui on the 27th December for the 2nd round of the PSP New Zealand Jet Sprint Championship for 2016.
Go to www.eventfinder.co.nz for tickets and be there to witness the next instalment of the world’s best Jet Sprint competition!
Paul Gaston, President, NZJSA