Round 5 saw the return of racing under lights for the PSP New Zealand Jet Sprint Championship at the Shelterview Jet Sprint Park on Saturday the 9th April.
Clearing weather from the previous day saw record pre sales at the venue and promised to be a very eventful round of racing. Teams from all over New Zealand turned up in numbers to contest the penultimate round of the series jostling for position heading into the final at Featherston in a weeks’ time.
The Biolytix Group B class kicked off with Wanganui locals Hayden Wilson and Chris Hausman in the Engine Reconditioners White Noize machine recording the fastest opening round showing they had solved the issues that plagued them in the previous rounds. This was the first night meeting under the revised lighting system at Wanganui and all teams seemed to ease into the tricky rotation early on to ensure they had the lines right once darkness fell.
It didn’t take before Ross Travers, Tim Edhouse and Patrick Hayden started dropping the times to not allow Wilson to open up a gap. With only one round to go in the championship, everybody was feeling the pressure to finish this one with a boat and crew in one piece.
The fourth qualifier was run after the break to allow the sun to drop and give everyone one last chance to get it right with a taste of how the track looked under lights. At the end of qualifying, it was the Biolytix Championship contenders emerging with the fast laps. Ross and Shane Travers led the charge in Radio Active as the only team to dip into the 45’s, followed by the 1800 MY ENGINE crew of Hayden Wilson and Chris Hausman with a 46:24. Tim and Debbie Edhouse in Liquid Addiction/ Owhango Motors claimed the stage 1 win over championship leaders Patrick and Jay Haden in the EnvirolineNZ machine with a 47:5 to a 47:8 respectively.
The Top 8 elimination round saw the early and very spectacular exit of Greg Reardon and Dawn Erb after clipping the bank heading back up through the middle and sending them spiralling out of contention and into the catch fence. Both Greg and Dawn walked away with Dawn carrying a few bruises and bumps. The Top 5 then saw Wilson record a DNS after Jet Unit issues and not able to get started in time, leaving Daniel Reade to battle it out with Travers, Edhouse and the Hayden’s. The final saw the local combination of father and son Travers take the win over Patrick and Jay Hayden with Tim and Debbie Edhouse in 3rd.
This leaves Patrick and Jay Haden (EnvirolineNZ) leading the championship on 147, Ross and Shane Travers (Radio Active) in 2nd on 141, and Tim and Debbie Edhouse (Owhango Motors) in 3rd with 140. Hayden Wilson is 4th on 125 closely followed by the only two all-female teams of Pip Thompson/ Megan Brodie (Bitches Box) and Donna Thomson/Monica Couper (Two-a-breast) on 119.
The Altherm Group A started off as expected, hard and fast. Most teams posting close and comparable times until it came to Blake Briant and Kate Hoogerbrug in the Harvest Transport Stinger by posting a DNF. Sam Newdick and Glen Mason in the PSP Stinger must have thought similarly not wanting to follow the crowd, they shot out of the PSP Building Brands start bridge and made their intentions clear by posting a time more than 2 seconds faster than the next fastest time in that round and a second faster than the winning Biolyitx Group B time of the night. It’s unusual to see Sam come out firing that hard straight away in the PSP machine, but he had complete faith in Glen’s navigation and showed supreme confidence from the start.
By the end of the 3rd qualifier which was the last one in daylight conditions, position 2 to 7 was covered by less than 1 second. Another confirmation of the quality of field assembled in this season’s Altherm Group A class. The final qualifying round saw the teams have their first look at the lights with most stepping back and driving conservatively through the technical rotation. Most teams bar one, Ollie Silverton and Jess Sit in the second PSP machine went out there and to say Ollie wasn’t worried about the lights would be an understatement. He came out of the blocks and attacked like it was a final and carried enormous speed into the tricky middle section only to clip the inside and get forced over the outside island. Luckily no damage was done to the Sprintec G-Force Hull for Ollie and Jess to continue.
The Top 8 saw a navigational error from Briant in the Harvest Transport Stinger, although correcting the lap, it saw himself and Kate return to the pits to not take any further part in the night and watch their championship points position unfold.
The Top 5 was anybody’s guess, Ollie and Jess (PSP), Simon Gibbon/Paul Thompson (Novus Auto Glass), Ric Burke/Alf Kil (Firewater), Neil Marshall/Michele Reid (Eagle Automotive) or Sam and Glen (PSP), apart from Newdick there was only 8 tenths of a second between them?!
The final saw Newdick/Mason take the win with a perfect lap of 42:0, followed by an impressive performance throughout the meeting from Marshall/Reid, and in 3rd place was the Triple 2 Firewater pairing of Burke/Kil.
The championship has had a massive shake up with the night meeting striking again, Sam Newdick now leads on 144, Blake Briant sits closely behind him on 141 with Ric Burke following on 135. 10 points behind is Neil Marshall on 125 with Warren Farr and Simon Gibbon right on his heels with 123 and 122.
Suzuki Superboats under lights with a championship for several drivers on the line! Never before have we seen this level and depth of competition in the unlimited class and we may end up seeing this as the norm in future if this class continues as it has. No longer do we have 1 or 2 stand out teams, the entire superboat field are all capable of winning and are pushing the limits of Jet Sprinting as we know it.
The battle at the front between Glen Head, Leighton Minnell and Peter Caughey was one everyone was eagerly awaiting. The recent performances of Richard Murray and Rob Coley meant that a fairly serious upset was on the cards for the teams seemingly at the front at this point. The first qualifier saw Nick Berryman/Tanya Iremonger fire up with the fastest time of 44:77 after the River Jet Stinger received its new engine earlier in the week, closely followed by Richard Burt/Clare Roberts in the Stinger Jet Sprint Race Team machine on a 44:82. Each team has their own way of dealing with the tracks and performances of each qualifying run can be reasonably pre-determined as to how hard each particular driver will go given their usual race day history. Leighton Minnell comes out at 50% and looks to get the track right in the early heats and gains momentum when the races start, Glen head is much the same and gains momentum over the course of the day, Rob Coley has a look around on the first one then goes hard from that point for the rest of the day, while Peter Caughey usually looks for boat set up early and drives his 4th qualifier as hard as the boat will allow him. Everything seemed to be going to plan and as per the driver’s historical progression in the second qual, until the Meaner Machine of Richard Murray came off the trailer. Fresh off his Hastings podium and at his home track, Murray and Navigator Jo Rathbone came out in Q2 and laid down a solid 41:6 to lead the session a full second ahead of Minnell, Burt and Head. The last boat to leave the ramp in Q2 was the ENZED SPRINTEC Race Team machine of Peter Caughey/Shama Putarunui. Obviously keen to get a handle on the track early before nightfall, Caughey came off the line hard and continued with confidence and speed for the remainder of the lap much to the surprise of the crowd. It’s not often you see a lap like this, this early in any qualifying session. The ENZED Sprintec stopped the clock at a blistering 40:94, the only time to be recorded in the 40’s for the remainder of the event. The end of Qualifying saw Glen Head/Darren Todd in the ALTHERM Race Team Sprintec complete with new engine sitting in 4th on a 41:89, Leighton and Kellie Minnell in the Taranaki Hardcore Stinger in 3rd with a 41:36, Richard Murray/Jo Rathbone in Meaner Machine in 2nd with 41:31 and Perter Caughey and Shama Putarunui in the top spot with a 40:94. The battle was well and truly on and the stage set for the eliminations to fire up under lights.
The Top 12 saw Richard Burt/Clare Roberts top the time sheet in the Stinger Race Team machine with a 41:2 putting more than a second on his next closest rival in the shape of local favourite Richard Murray and the Meaner Machine. The rest of the field were having a good hard look at the track under complete night conditions but Head/Todd and Caughey/Putarunui were still to come. The ALTHERM machine away first, putting in a solid lap and the current SUZUKI Superboat Championship leaders navigating their way around the technical track with confidence until an engine problem saw them pull up short and not able to set the finish line timer off. This was a massive turning point in the Championship standings with Glen Head/Darren Todd not continuing past the first elimination. The ENZED boat of Caughey’s Sprintec Race Team was signalled off the trailer, unable to lift the reverse bucket the beautifully presented ENZED machine backed into the wall in the launch pool. The boat was retrieved and put back on the trailer while Eric Hoeksema clocked the stopwatch for the 5 minute repair time allowance. The team got the bucket working inside the 5 minutes and Caughey backed the 570 cube small block Sprintec back off the trailer, and again into the wall. The reverse switch had failed again and that saw the end of the ENZED Sprintec for the night, and the championship blown wide open.
Championship contenders Leighton and Kellie Minnell (Taranaki Hardcore) along with Rob and Ange Coley (MouthFresh) were keen to get some valuable points back with the sudden absence of the ALTHERM and ENZED Teams, although Murray/Rathbone and Burt/Roberts were equally as keen to snatch the points away with both of those teams recording some impressive times in the Top 8. All 4 teams were covered by less than a second.
The Top 5 saw David Simmons and John Verry (Blue Flame) away first followed by Rob and Ange Coley (MouthFresh) then Richard Murray and Jo Rathbone in the Meaner Machine. Simmons and Coley both drove hard laps, as was Murray. Visibly, Murray carried far more speed than the previous pairings as they went up through the middle to the tight right hander, probably one of the more technical sections of track in the PSP New Zealand Jet Sprint Championship, as he entered the right hander they clipped the bank on the inside which broke suction and they were passengers from then on. Rolling and pirouetting into the wall and catch fence, the Meaner Machine and its occupants were lucky to get away with what they did. Murray walked away while Jo Rathbone injured her lower leg during the impact.
Richard Burt/Clare Roberts set the fastest time of the 5 with a 41:4.
The Top 3 was set, Rob and Ange Coley away in the 705 cube MouthFresh Sprintec. A technical problem saw them stop the clock a second slower than their previous outing with a 43:4. Taranaki Hardcore came out hard and the Minnell’s entertained the crowd with a wild ride clocking their fastest run of the day on a 41:34. It was up to Richard Burt and Clare Roberts in the Stinger Race Team entry to spoil the Minnell/Coley points party. Burt was the only driver in the field to consistently record times in the 41’s from the first elimination, and this one had to be a low 41 to beat the Taranaki Hardcore machine. A near perfect lap saw the Stinger Race Team take the top spot with a 41:2, just 1/10 ahead of the Minnell’s.
Championship standings see Glen Head/Darren Todd (ALTHERM) on 132, Leighton and Kellie Minnell (Taranaki Hardcore) 1 point behind on 131, Peter Caughey/Shama Putarunui (ENZED/SPRINTEC) along with Rob and Ange Coley(MouthFresh) equal on 128, and Richard Murray/Jo Rathbone (Meaner Machine) on 127. David Simmons/John Verry (Blue Flame) are sitting on 116 and not out of podium contention.
Focus now shifts to this weekend’s final of the PSP New Zealand Jet Sprint Championship for 2016 at Featherston. We’ve seen many tight battles for Championship glory in recent years, but not like this. The Championship in all 3 classes is on the line with the top 5 superboats in contention for the big win.
This week will be the biggest week all year for a lot of the top teams, preparing their machines and their minds to hold up to the pressure this round will bring. Who or what will crack first? Will machine failure play a part in the final result or will it be the internal combustion of the drivers brains melting into a heap that will give an advantage to the rivals? Get onto www.eventfinder.co.nz to secure your tickets or head down to the Tauherenikau Race course this Sunday to watch the final round of the greatest motorsport championship in New Zealand unfold!