Late burst of speed aids Caughey

By Jared Smith

Whatever they were doing, the crew of Peter Caughey's boat must have had magic golden spanners going into the superboats final race at the Jetpro Jetsprint Championships at Shelter View yesterday.

The former world champion was trailing in the wake of his more favoured Wanganui opponents at Upokongaro as he snuck through as last qualifier in both the Top Five and then Top Three eliminators during what he admitted had been a horrible day for the Sprintec Race Team as they searched for some rhythm any rhythm from their 540 V8 engine.

With defending national champion Leighton Minnell's Hydraulink boat cleverly coasting with middling efforts before pouring it on in the later races and veteran local Pat Dillon's PPG Hulk blowing times out of the water with every run, it appeared long odds for Caughey to find the necessary pace.

But right when it counted with navigator Karen Marshall given permission to "get stroppy" and a bit of trust coming into his boat's performance Caughey shocked the gathering with the fastest lap of the day at a blistering 44.959 seconds.

Under pressure to win another consecutive series round, tragedy struck Minnell's boat when a snapped drive shaft went right through the oil filter causing a burst of smoke and ending his day on the grassy verge.

Having driven leading lap times around 45-46 seconds all day, Dillon's fortune ran out on the final run where, despite his best efforts, a 46.246s was not enough.

A series which the Wanganui drivers, led by Minnell, were favoured to dominate has been thrown completely wide open heading into the second round at Featherston on January 20.

Caughey credited his crew for keeping their cool as they struggled through the morning qualifiers and posting unremarkable times during the early eliminators.

"The boat wasn't ready for it then. We changed something with every run," he said.

"I was just happy to make the top three.

"If you had asked me at lunchtime, I would not have put our name on the ring for a win. Pat was showing his hand so we had some indication of where he's at. When Leighton was doing his 47s [seconds] we were saying 'no way, we're not buying that, cobber."

Minnell admitted he had been foxing while Dillon was out tearing up the course times.

"You do a bit, it's good to be a tactician.

"I knew we would have to be a 44 [seconds] to win it."

While naturally disappointed that fate had worked against a nearly perfectly executed game plan, Minnell was relieved the damage was not severe, possibly only $300-$400.

They will be back to normal for Featherston with the burden of expectation to match the 2011/12 clean sweep now off Minnell's shoulders.

"It's good a complete new start," Minnell said.

Dillon was also pleased all the hard work putting together their own engine had reaped rewards.

"We've persevered with it, year after year," Dillon said.

It was only at the end of the day he felt the engine's timing start to slip, which meant pulling back in the Top Three final despite being right up with Caughey at the split, Dillon said.

"It could have gone either way. It's certainly going to be a mean feat the whole way [to win the series].

"The boats are all very close," said Dillon.

Former Wanganui, now Feilding-based Steve Bron was also looking promising earlier in the day, before an uncharacteristic 47.155 lap saw him drop out during the Top Five eliminator.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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