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Anticipation tops jet sprint season opener

Anticipation tops jet sprint season opener

Mixing tight turns, narrow water channels and horsepower, 30 teams will converge on the small Shelterview Raceway, eight kilometres north-east of Wanganui for the 27 December first round of the 2011 Jetpro Jetsprint boating series.

Spread over six rounds that concludes mid-April, the spectacular spills series features three competition categories for the water-jet propelled boats. Even entries across the Jetpro Lites, Scott Waterjet Group A and Suzuki Superboat classes will be the only certainty for the teams’ as they start afresh in the chase for championship title points.

Needing to memorise a course consisting 24 turns around the multi-configuration track located near Upokongaro, teams only get four timed runs in which to set a top-12 time to make it through to the first of the elimination runs. Expecting to take between 45-59 seconds to complete the course, the time pressure and navigation accuracy place huge demands on the crew who are extracting everything from their engine and jet-pump combination. Errors often make for the pinnacle of spectator action - regardless of the competition category.

With only one defending champion across the classes returning for the season opener, Scott Waterjet Group A pairing of Bevin Muir and Kathy Barker of Thames now intend on making it three. Narrowly securing their second title at last season’s final round, Muir says that sealed their focus for the new season: “I would love number three in a row. Again it’s just consistency, each year we go in to the unknown. We don’t know what all the other teams have done in the off-season, so it’s about not getting it wrong, like I did at the first round of last year.”

Wary of the competition, Muir believes any of last year’s top-eight boats are close enough to wedge him from the dream title.

“There is Reg Smith (Taupo), Andrew Guthrie (Levin), he’s a lot more serious this year and of course Baden Gray (Auckland) – who dominated for all of last season. Sam Newdick (Hamilton) – they’ve got a new boat coming and Simon Campbell from Palmerston North,” he said of his prime opposition.
Muir and Barker were recently awarded the Hauraki/Thames region club team award and are now entered to the 2010 Brian Perry Waikato Regional Sports Awards, to be held on 27 January 2011.

Teams’ in the entry-level carburettor restricted 412 cubic inch Jetpro Lites category will lead the way as the first boats on the water. Prior testing and preparation usually mark an advantage for the first round, but nerves and the elimination style competition often oust the odds-on favourite. Void of a defending champion, the field has a healthy mix of rookie competitors to freshen interest.

The methanol fuelled Suzuki Superboat category is often rated crowd favourite for the unrestricted engine capacity that reverberates the air. Although more stable in terms of competitor base, the pressures are as intense and often, mechanical limits are exceeded, resulting in a variety of failures during the heat of competition.

Fitting that unknown limit, last season’s runner-up Pat Dillon says he has a few things to unveil during the season to make his title quest even more of a challenge. One of four in the category from the Wanganui region, last season’s battle was so intense there were three teams within two points of finishing second.

“I’ve bought a lot of motor components to make it go a lot better,” Dillon said of his Ford block engine. “We’ve got another short-block, which will give more engine capacity and more power again. So by the second meeting we should have another 300-400 horsepower. We want it to be the most powerful jetsprint boat in New Zealand – that’s what we’re after. It even scares me thinking about it, not many sports can say that. I think if we want 1NZ we have to get more first placings and if that’s the case we’ve got to try real hard – we know it’s not given to you.”

Stepping in to the class amid much rumour, Wellington’s Phil Wheelans is one of two new teams to enter the high-end formula.

Spectator action begins at 11am on the Christmas day holiday morning; the teams each get a familiarisation run before four timed qualification sessions. Resuming after the lunch-break, the top times run through a series of eliminations, starting with the top-12. A further three runs will decide the final three who will run-off for the day’s podium decider.

Tickets can be purchased at the gate or online www.v8jetsprints.co.nz $20 adult, $5 for children 5-12years and under 5 free. Being a farm location there is a no pet policy.

Again televised, the Wanganui event and Jetpro jetsprint championship will have delayed coverage repeated on the Sky TV network during the year.

ENDS

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