Wanganui’s Shelterview jetsprint track is braced for a battle of the giants come Saturday, April 9, when the methanol-snorting SuperBoats come out to play.
For the penultimate event of the 2016 championship season sees multiple-world SuperBoat champion Peter Caughey just two points behind Glen Head, relatively new to the class but determined to stay ahead. And with another two class acts – Leighton Minnell and Richard Murray – seven points back, an error could cost either racer the championship.
Caughey says development of his ENZED, Trojan Total boat is on schedule, “And we’ve had time to wheel out a couple of secret developments for this weekend’s race. That’s the great thing about SuperBoats, there are really no restrictions on what teams can do with their engines and jet units.”
To add spice to the lead-up, Glen Head’s motor snapped a crankshaft in the final at Hastings, and he’s had to rebuild the engine’s bottom end. Peter Caughey wants to win, but not by default. “We sent him a few parts to get going, it sounds as if the rebuild has gone well, and he was out testing his boat last night.”
There might have been something in the water at Hastings, he jokes. “From what I hear one of the Nissan twin-turbos may have snapped a crank as well. That would be bad news for Graham Hill, as he was making serious progress with his Sprintec boat. Let’s hope he’s ready to launch this weekend.”
As for Leighton Minnell and Richard Murray, Minnell is also a former world champion and can never be discounted, and Murray is a local boy in his first SuperBoat season, but living on site, and racing the Hulk, formerly raced by Pat Dillon, “So he should have the home track advantage.”
The atmosphere at Wanganui will be all the more competitive given the previous event here saw spectacular crashes, with Rob Coley’s boat launching from the exit bowl and screaming 30 metres across a track and through the trees, and the spectators who are expected to flood through the gates know this could be another race to remember.
Caughey says, “The Shelterview team has made a few changes and redesigned the finish line and the exit from the track, as we don’t want any more hair-raising life-threatening races! The finish sequence is much better, and the way it’s laid out will allow a couple of electronic split times, which is beneficial for the drivers, and adds interest for spectators, too.”
Wanganui is one of the best-presented tracks in the world, and Caughey says the racing there is “always exciting for spectators and exhilarating for drivers.”
All the more so when the racing is under lights. “Night racing presents challenges in addition to the high g-force cut and thrust of racing 1000hp boats weighing only 500kg. So to help the navigators and drivers see the all-important island shapes and racing lines the promoters have fitted new LED floodlights, and they’ve repainted all the edging tyres, which should help us.”
Caughey says it’s been a busy few weeks for many SuperBoaters. He flew to Meremere for a test day and drove some of his Sprintec-developed racers, “Especially the new Group A design – it’s looking like a staunch package and we’re looking forward to see it shine at the weekend.”
He’s also been testing Rob Coley’s new boat, “We’re expecting him to be quite a bit more competitive at this round than he was at Hastings, and the Wanganui track suits his style of motor – though the big 700ci/ 11.5-litre engine is heavier than some, it has power for Africa.”
Meanwhile the track rotation is out. “It’s looking like a pretty fair rotation, and there will be some high speeds for the SuperBoats to strut their stuff in style. Of most note is that we’ll race the infamous Wanganui hairpin under lights: we’ve raced it plenty during daylight but we’ve never raced it at night – let’s hope the new lights help with that.”
Those planning to watch what is shaping up to be a memorable event might want to get there early. The boats will be on the water from 3pm, the pit walk pitched for around 6pm, and the finals wrapping up by 9.30.
NZ Jet Sprint Championship Suzuki SuperBoat points
Top 10 only, after four of six rounds
1 Glen Head 111
2 Peter Caughey 109
3= Leighton Minnell 102
3= Richard Murray 102
5 Rob Coley 100
6 David Simmons 93
7 Graeme Hill 74
8 Scott Donald 60
9 Garry Stephen 58
10 Aaron Hanson 57
New Zealand Jetsprint Championship season:
9 April 2016, Wanganui (under lights) round 5
24 April, Featherston, round 6 (final)