Halted by sound barrier

By Jared Smith

It's not easy to test the "latest and greatest" hydroplane on New Zealand waters when the neighbours call noise control on you.

All Waverley's Grand Prix driver Ken Lupton wanted is a little understanding as he tested his cat of the water the "Cheetah" hydroplane ahead of 10th Anniversary of the Downtown Wanganui Flying lap competition this weekend.

Lupton had planned a thorough speed test at Mangakino on Wednesday, but those plans became derailed as the 510 cubic inch Big Chief motor proved too much for delicate nearby eardrums.

"It went pretty good, we only got one run in. A brand new boat, only been four laps in it," Lupton said.

The last American hydroplane built by industry legend Ron Jones snr, Cheetah is carbon fibre and only half the weight of Lupton's previous boat Annihilator 3.

This creates more speed, but at the same time, more air under the boat Lupton having to learn to compensate unless he wants to go from boat driver to a rocket pilot heading for a splash down.

"I've got to be a lot more alert driving and I've to be be careful not to blow it over.

"I'd rather be above the water than below. It's not much fun under water."

The boat arrived into Auckland last week from Australia, completing a journey which saw it shipped from Seattle in August to Melbourne to be fitted with more hardware and a race pack system allowing engine data to be downloaded to computer.

Engine builder Brett Niddrie can monitor the performance after every run as Cheetah will reach top speeds of 200mph (321km/h).

The Acceleration on Water Festival of Speed will feature not only Lupton's beast but the slick and fast turning Formula one Tunnel.

Auckland's Luke Sharp "Prompt Parts" recently knocked off the New Zealand water speed record at 231.908km/h (144.132 mph) and will be the one to beat on this narrow challenging course.

Not to be outdone is the senior Lupton as two-time World Grand Prix champion Warwick has been developing a Kiwi design-built hydroplane over the past 18 months. It will also be the first time for this recently re-designed boat on the Wanganui course.

Competition is held between the City and Motorway bridges, with the 2500hp machines firing up at 11.30am Saturday and 12.30pm Sunday.

Lupton said that along with Billy Webb this is the perfect weekend for the crowds to get down to the embankments to watch.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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