After a dramatic season in which defending SuperBoat champion Peter Caughey raced three boats in six rounds, the Canterbury racer ended the Suzuki SuperBoat jetsprint season in a solid second place.
The current world champion is more used to topping the podium, but he was quick to pay tribute to season winner, Pat Dillon.
“To win the series after winning only two of the rounds is a bit of a record, but he’s been consistent, this year it’s been a mixed bag of results at different events and that’s what made the season so exciting, but at the end of the day the best team got the result.”
Caughey says though second wasn’t what he was looking for, it was good to be back in his own black boat for a very demanding track.
“It’s a very technical track to race, and difficult to navigate. As you got faster the perspective changed, and it was tough, but we were in the groove and my navigator, Karen Marshall, was doing a great job – there were four or five corners where I depended on her, and she came through, as a good navigator does.”
Given these boats are travelling at up to 130kph on a tiny course and that they race the shallow channels without brakes, a hundredth of a second of hesitation can spell disaster, as the final amply illustrated.
Glen Head won with a 47.369-second time, Caughey hit a 47.513 and Pat Dillon clocked 50.642.
But that track bit back when Leighton Minnell took a wrong turn, but it was Rob Coley the crowd will remember. He had already clocked two lap times at 48.26, “He’s really been on form but he went hard in the final and it turned bad, and he had a serious crash and flipped out of the track and tried to escape through the safety fence. No one was hurt and he’ll live to race another day, but it was an illustration of how unforgiving this Featherston track can be.”
Caughey said although his Sprintec boat handled well, the freshly rebuilt engine isn’t as quick as expected. “Since the camshaft change, we’re struggling to get the tune we were looking for, we were a little down on performance, and we’re at a bit of a loss as to why. The motor’s healthy, we got some good times, but we’re short 300rpm and at a final, that can make all the difference.”
He acknowledges that it needed more than a win to take the series, given Pat’s lead heading into the event. “Yes, to win we needed nine or 10 boats contesting the champs, and on the day two weren’t racing for points, then Graeme Hill’s Nissan blew its crank on the first run of the day, and Pat only had to complete one run to take the series.”
He said, “We have to be grateful with second place after running a leased boat in four out of six events, and we’ve taken home a straight boat.”
“But I really, really wanted to get a win today for the ENZED team engineer Dave McCallum and navigator Karen Marshall, as Karen is retiring from racing, and Dave from full-time duties in the team.”
That made Featherston an emotional event for the tight-knit crew and their ENZED, Trojan and Total sponsors. “Dave has been dedicated with the team for 21 years, it’s impressive, he should be on the Queen’s list, and Karen too, I can’t say enough about the outstanding effort from both of them. We’re wishing them all the best as they enjoy having a bit more free time available.”
The SuperBoat teams now head into the off season, with no racing for the next six months. “People are wheeling and dealing, buying and selling so the Sprintec workshop will be busy. Everyone is looking forward to time in the off season to recover, and I’ll be trying to find those extra 300rpm.”
“Jetsprinting is on a high in this country, there’s no doubt about that. As for the ENZED team, we’ve got some exciting announcements ahead, and you’ll be hearing more from us very soon!”
New Zealand Jetsprint Championship season
25 April Featherston/Wairarapa, Rd 6
Top 10 provisional results
1 Glen Head
2 Peter Caughey
3 Pat Dillon
4 Leighton Minnell
5 Rob Coley
6 Nick Berryman
7 Chris Munro
8 David Simmons
9 Richard Burt
10 Graeme Hill
Suzuki Grand Vitara SuperBoat class, top 10, provisional points
1 Pat Dillon 173pts
2 Peter Caughey 165
3 Leighton Minnell 155
4 Glen Head 155
5 Rob Coley 149
6 Graeme Hill 137
7 Dave Simmons 126
8 Nick Berryman 95
9 Peter Huijs 77
10 Dave Hopkins 23