The jetsprinters were back in Featherston on April 26th after a couple of seasons away, and the organising committee certainly pulled out all the stops to make the day successful. They didn’t let a few minor hiccups such as having no water in the track on the 25th stop them, and worked tirelessly to sort out those issues. It certainly paid off, as the track and pit area were in excellent shape as the sun rose on the morning of the 26th. Even the weather behaved itself, and the PSP NZ Jetsprint Championship drew to a nail-biting finish without any of the racers or spectators getting wetter than they needed to!
With around 36 teams racing to claim those all-important championship points, and the Sprintec single seater coming out to stretch its legs, the launch ramp was a busy place from dawn to dusk. A few of the boats (and drivers) seemed relieved to get to the last round of the season, and the last three months have certainly taken a toll on many of the teams. Rob Coley (Poison Ivy) started his day with a panic over oil pressure and fuel issues, but after coughing a little at the start of the first Qualifier the boat behaved superbly during the day – right up to the point where it clipped a bank and launched itself straight through the chicanes on the way to the finish line, and ended up nose first in the safety fencing around the track. It was a sad end to an amazing day’s racing from the Poison Ivy team, especially as their times to that point made it seem likely that they would finish on the podium for the third round running. Luckily neither Rob, nor brother Tony who sits in the navigator’s seat, were hurt in the crash which mirrored their exit from round 1 in the 2014 season. In an ironic twist of fate, the RSQKRU had brought an unusual trophy to add to prizegiving, and at the end of the day presented Coley with the fire extinguisher that he had destroyed in that crash at Wanganui.
Graeme Hill (Liquid Gold) wasn’t quite so lucky with his boat. A major issue with his crankshaft during the first qualifying run saw him back on the trailer and off home again – a disappointing end to what has been a somewhat disappointing season for him and his new navigator Ray Lawson.
Peter Caughey, on the other hand, was absolutely stoked to be back in his main boat (Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil) having been without it since round 1 this season when he too had crankshaft issues. He showed how much he enjoyed being “back in black” with an eye-watering series of times, culminating in the closest top 5 racing for a while – only 0.15seconds between the 1st and 2nd place Suzuki Grand Vitara Superboats. Caughey would have preferred the top spot on the podium, but was denied by a smoking-hot run from Glen Head (Overtime). He later passed on his 2nd place trophy to his Senior Technician and Engineer, Dave McCallum, who is retiring after 21 years in the pits with them, saying, “Obviously I would have preferred this to be a 1st place trophy to give you, Dave.”
Caughey also paid tribute to this navigator Karen Marshall who has sat alongside him for 2 of his seven world championships and five of his nine NZ championships, but is retiring from the sport after ten years. “I wanted to return her safely to her father,” Caughey joked during the prizegiving, “so that I could get the bond back!” Marshall has filled a range of roles within jetsprinting, having served on the Executive Committee and also having been a track promoter, as well as navigating the Enzed/Trojan/Total Oil boat for ten years.
Marshall and McCallum aren’t the only ones retiring from jetsprinting now we have reached the end of the season. Pat Dillon and Steve Edmonds (PPG The Hulk) hung up their race helmets after gaining the 3rd place step on the podium this round. They are the only team in their class that has been on the podium in every round this season, and their 2 wins and four 3rd places have been enough to take them to the top of The PSP NZ Jetsprint Championship. Dillon thanked Edmonds “for sitting beside me and being the voice of reason when I just want to give it some throttle!”
Dillon has sold the boat, which possibly accounts for the grim expression on his face when he found himself heading directly at the timing box during Qualifier 2. He managed to find enough purchase to stay in the water, and got back to his trailer with PPG The Hulk 3 still in a fit state to be sold. He announced at the prizegiving, “This sport is so cool. I’m going to be here next year crewing for the guy who’s bought the boat – and I want him to win!”
But the winning spot for the Suzuki Grand Vitara Superboats went, in this round, to the Overtime boys. They have been building up to it all season, with a 3rd place in round 3 and a 2nd place in round 4. As relatively new additions to the superboat class, Head and Todd have set out to win every time their boat touches the water – the results being spectacular, but not always in a positive way, as their first 3 qualifying runs demonstrated on Sunday. With 3 DNF’s on the score sheet, Head managed to settle his driving down and Todd’s navigation fell into place at just the right time. Their 47.369 winning time shows that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with next season.
And although they didn’t make it through to the Top 5, it was great to see Nick Berryman and his daughter Ella back in the Riverjet boat. They’ve been out of racing for the majority of this season since their rather dramatic weekend at Bay Park, where they suffered two severe crashes in two days of racing. Clearly they are not letting the past influence their attitude towards racing, as their times in Round 6 show, and we look forward to seeing them racing again next season.
The PSP Suntuf Group A class enjoyed a somewhat more sedate day’s racing, and it was great to see Duncan Wilson and Jaimee-Lee Lupton (Lethal Injection) back on the water for the first time since round 1 in Wanganui. They were absolutely stoked with the second step of the podium at the end of the day, and at prizegiving Wilson allowed his son to claim the trophy on his behalf.
Clearly Bevin and Kathy Muir (Teng Tools) didn’t want it to get too sedate in the PSP Suntuf Group A class, however, so they decided to spice up the Top 5 run with a little island hopping action. In a stroke of genius, Bevin Muir managed to hold on to the boat and get it round the rest of the rotation without any mishaps. Sadly his wife and navigator, Kathy, held on to the boat all too literally and got her hand badly bruised when the island impact buckled the side panel of the boat, forcing it against the roll-cage – where she happened to be holding on at the time.
There was some hard-fought competition in this class, with Tristan Hynds (Loose Unit Too), Russell Dodds (NZ Eagle) and Garry Stephen (Rapids Jet) all putting in 54 second runs in the Top 8. Sadly, only Hynds got close enough to the decimal point to move on to the Top 5, but it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying on behalf of the other two teams. When you put this alongside the intense rivalry between Sam Newdick (PSP) and Blake Briant at the top of the table, it all adds up to a great day’s racing for the crowd to enjoy.
At the end of the day it was Newdick who stood on the top step of the podium, alongside navigator Glenn Mason, and after declaring what a privilege it is to compete “against the rest of yous” they followed the rules of the prizegiving and sprayed the champagne liberally around the room. Briant had to be content with the third place step, but was philosophical about the whole day, saying “Of course we would have liked a better place, but third is still good by us.” What wasn’t so good was the organiser’s inability to cope with Briant’s navigator’s name. Kate Hoogerbrug had to be content to receiving her 3rd place trophy under the pseudonym ‘Kate Smith’, but got her own special brand of revenge with the champagne.
It has to be said that the most excited member of any PSP Suntuf Group A team at Featherston on Sunday was not on the podium. They weren’t even driving a boat that day. In fact, the most excited member of the entire PSP Suntuf Group A group on Sunday was Alf Kil, navigator with the Firewater team.
And why was Kil so excited, I hear you ask?
I’ll tell you right now!
Earlier in the season we told you about the fan club that was building up around the Firewater boys after their videos were released on the internet. One little boy in particular is absolutely fascinated with Kil, to the point that the lad in question won’t even go to sleep at night until he’s found Kil’s picture in the 2015 season programme.
Well, this young boy and his family made the trek down from Tauranga to see Alf Kil, and we’re not sure who was the most thrilled. Kil and his number one fan spent some time hanging out together in the pits at lunch time, and posed for numerous photos together. Hopefully those photos will help alleviate the stress for this young man’s family – they are just hanging out for next season’s programme so they can get some different bedtime reading for their son.
Ric Burke, the Firewater driver, had no comment to make about the rumour that Kil was waving enthusiastically to his number one fan every time the boat went close to the fence where he was standing!
Burke might not have been the only one to have problems with his navigator – or maybe it was communication errors that plagued Neil Marshall and Michelle Reid in the Slippery when wet boat. In their first out they got a little disorientated and tried to return up the start chute, but seemed to get things sorted out after that and they put some really consistent times on the board. However, after a beautifully smooth start to their Top 8 run they seemed to slow down (stopping to read the map, perhaps?) as they realised they had made a wrong turn. Marshall tried to get them back on track, but eventually gave up and took them back to the trailer. We can only imagine the conversation going on back in that pit area.
Slightly easier to imagine was the conversation taking place in the Get N Cider boat at the end of their Q3 run. Navigator Mandy Thomson may not be fluent in NZ Sign language, but she improvised enough to make her feelings clearly felt on the way back to the trailer. It really should have been that way.... that way..... THAT WAY, and Clayton Tisdall did well to remember that in their Q4 run. The sign language was much calmer on the way back in after that one!
Navigation errors were the least of the worries in the TNT pit area. In this double driven boat the senior pairing of Ray Thompson and David Thoms decided to push their “old girl” (their words, not mine) to the limit during Q4 and ended up parked up at the top of the bank near the safety fence. Not to be outdone, Thompson jnr – son Brett and his navigator Stu White - gave some consistent performances right the way through to the Top 5 and then they seemed to have some trouble getting the boat off the trailer. Once they got the boat over the starting line, Thompson jnr drove it like he’d borrowed it from his dad and was setting a great time until he clipped a bank on his way down the long straight and beached it. Like father, like son!
Another team cursing their luck at the end of the Top 5 run was White Noize who seemed to suffer an engine failure at the end of the first long sweeping bend, and parked the boat very gently against the tyres. The RSQKRU were, of course, quickly on hand and towed Wilson and Hausman back to the trailer.
The departure of White Noize and TNT left the Top 5 as a battle between the same podium line up as in the previous round. Ross Travers (Radioactive) and Ollie Silverton (PSP) started the day with equal points in The PSP NZ Jetsprint Drivers’ Championship and pushed each other every step of the way. Patrick Haden (Skitzo) was determined to give them a run for their money and thought that he might have stolen that top podium place out from under them when he drove a blistering 53.781 in the Top 5. And indeed, on the strength of Travers’ previous run, Haden would have been right. Unfortunately for the Skitzo team, Travers managed to shave another 1.4 seconds off his Top 8 time to take the number 1 spot for the fifth time this season.
Haden had to settle for second place, but he wasn’t too despondent at the prizegiving when he once again wife Jay’s lucky undies for their good fortune. Silverton was resigned to third place but was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating Travers on his win which also sealed the drivers’ championship for him as well. Travers put his sparkling finish down to their strategy for the season: “We just went as best we could, and tried to keep it in the water.” Well, it seemed to work for him and the rest of the Radioactive team.
So the 2015 NZ Jetsprint season has reached its end. The races are all run, the final scrutineering has taken place and the drivers have hung their race suits up to dry.
All that remains to be done is the official announcement of The PSP NZ Jetsprint Championship winners, and that will take place at the AGM and Prizegiving on June 13th.