Wanganui drivers look to step up at Featherston

By Jared Smith,

Wanganui's jetboaters do not like the view from the lower platforms of the podium and want to finish on top tomorrow for the second round of the Jetpro Jetsprint Championships at Featherston.

Defending national champion Leighton Minnell was down at Shelter View yesterday afternoon putting the finishing touches on his repaired superboat, sharpening the propeller blades and triple-checking every little detail.

He is well aware how much those count after the mishap at Upokongaro in December when a snapped drive shaft went right through his oil filter during the Top 3 eliminator.

Finishing smoking on a grassy verge, Minnell watched as Canterbury's Peter Caughey came from behind to win the round from Minnell's fellow Wanganui driver Pat Dillon, who had dominated the day right up until the final race.

Minnell said stripping his engine revealed no damage.

"The [replacement] drive shaft has arrived and we've got it all fitted up."

It's an exciting time because as well as Caughey and Dillon, newly-crowned Australian Superboat champion Greg "Crusty" Mercier has arrived as well.

For Minnell, who was alongside fellow hometown driver Rob Conley as they worked on flattening out some bent fins, there is no more pressure to win every round and repeat the 2011/12 success.

"Now she's just a gloves-off battle. I can hopefully grab that flag and show them how it's done."

His crew is already thinking long-term about defending the world championship in 2014 in the United States, so while the national title remains important, they are focused on finding as much new speed as possible.

And if they do, well, the New Zealand title comes home in any case.

Minnell has had no rethink of his tactics from Shelter View - it will always be better to drive a steady pace through the day and see who wants to go early, before pouring it on in the final eliminators.

"We know we can be there, it's just a matter of watching who's going to be with us.

"I should have been a poker man - with the thick glasses."

After finishing third overall last season and leaving Shelter View in second place in December, Richard Murray knows how important it is to keep momentum going in his Group A class.

"They're all important [rounds], especially if you're going for that championship title."

Featherston's unpredictable weather could be a little rough tomorrow, but after eight years of competing it's not a worry, he said.

Having checked the filters on his boat yesterday, the big thing for Murray was to relax and enjoy the challenge of pegging back the one-second loss to Hamilton's Sam Newdick and Glenn Mason in December.

He knows his opponent was "tapped out" physically after their final race, as was he, but there could yet be some more speed in the boat.

"We'll look to to close the gap, hopefully keeping the pressure on and hopefully he'll make a mistake."

You've got to be cool, as was evidenced in December when controversy raged around Murray after Thames driver Bevin Muir took his boat out of the water for running repairs - resulting in delays, protests and challenges.

Having an extra-long wait to race, Murray has become accustomed to such issues: "That's all part of the pressure, you've got to take it in your stride.

"Those guys that do that stuff, it just plays with their own heads."

The website will have live streaming of the action tomorrow.



Suzuki Superboat Championship:

1.Peter Caughey (Canterbury) 30 points; 2. Pat Dillon (Wanganui) 29; 3. Leighton Minnell (Wanganui) 28; 4. Steve Bron (Feilding) 26; 5. Ray Ferguson (Lower) Hutt 25.

PSP Group A Championship:

1. Sam Newdick (Hamilton) 30; 2. Richard Murray (Wanganui) 29; 3. Paul Gaston (Queensland) 28; 4. Bevin Muir (Thames) 26; 5. Baden Gray (Auckland) 25.

JetPro 400s:

1. Brett Thompson (Piopio) 30; 2. Tim Edhouse (Owhanga) 29; 3. Gerry Linklater (Wanganui) 28; 4. Warren Farr (Taupo) 26 points.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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