Less than a second separates the top four at the opening day of the UIM World jetsprint championship final at Wanganui today.
And all four of those boats were built by defending champion Peter Caughey. The ENZED racer is currently sitting fourth in a leased boat after problems with US-supplied parts for his newest craft could not be fixed before the opening round.
Leading the tables after the second qualifying round is Steve Bron, who took just 48.63 seconds to scream round three laps of the tightly twisting Wanganui track. Leighton Minnell sits second on 48.06, with Australian Phonsy Mullan third in Caughey’s newest boat, a twin turbo that turned out a 48.35-second time.
Caughey raced Bron’s second-string boat to 48.63 seconds, a result achieved after spending all week fettling the boat; “And it’s still got plenty of oil leaks, so we’re lucky to have a good supply of Total oil,” Caughey says.
The day was not without its dramas. Caughey says the racing is fast and furious, with spectacular crashes already the order of the day.
“Group A racer Baden Gray and his navigator Tanya Iremonger threw a big roll right on the money corner at the end of the fast front straight. There’s a tightening apex, they were off line and clipped a little bit of land but when you’re tapped out it’s all it takes, and they landed upside down and skidding backwards.
Caughey says the corner has claimed a lot of notable racers. “It was a bit of warning to all of us, but fortunately they’re alright and now working on the boat to get back racing tomorrow.”
The other notable crash was in the Lites support class, with a new, all-girl team running in a boat they’ve named ‘Two Abreast’. Caughey says, “They’ve been racing really well and have a lot of talent, but they rolled in deep water, which delivers the scariest moment you can have as a jetsprinter and they needed help.”
“The safety crew got there quickly but the boat got a few dents the size of a D-cup,” Caughey quips, “But they got it back on the water and did another run. They had the courage to get back racing and they’re quickly proving competitive.”
Meanwhile Caughey’s hard-working ENZED team is making progress with the leased boat. “We’ve been making progress with the big block and we’re getting the old girl closer to being a serious racing machine and it’s almost starting to feel normal so we’re a lot more confident.”
“We’re really disappointed we haven’t got our new boat there, especially given how well Leighton is doing on our old boat. And Steve Bron racing one of our oldest boats got the fastest time of the day so far, with a 47.78-second run, though we’ve had to help with a blown jet unit bearing to ensure he’ll be back racing tomorrow.”
Caughey also ensured his team helped make one young lad’s day. “Brendan’s a local kid who’s had a serious battle with cancer for the past four years, a courageous wee fella bravely ticking off items from his bucket list. We helped load him down with caps and posters to put a smile on his face.”
But tomorrow it gets serious. “The track rotation definitely favours those with a lot of power and speed – and we haven’t seen the fastest of Phonsy yet. Dean Finch, the other top Australian we need to watch, did a 49.19 so far.
People are racing hard, and this is a very demanding track rotation, fast and flowing but with some very tight stretches lined by used car tyres and some of the layout and berms, have changed since we raced four years ago.
But we’re looking forward to greeting the ENZED crew and putting our best foot forward at the final round tomorrow.