Whanganui was represented strongly on all three podium at the second round of the Mouthfresh New Zealand Jetsprint Championships at Meremere on Saturday.
Superboat championship rivals Rob Coley and Glen Head have now traded 1-2 finishers on both of their home tracks, as it was the Hamilton-based Head who got up for the win in the Top 3 eliminator this time.
Catching up with them and now sitting just a few points back in third overall after two rounds, Whanganui's Richard Murray followed up his fourth at Shelterview in December with a third placing at the weekend and is starting to feel more confident.
In the other classes, Whanganui's Ross Travers came third for the second round in a row in the Group A's, with local boy Ollie Silverton taking over the series lead after New Plymouth's Sean Rice fell off the pace, while Canterbury's Simon Gibbon came second on the day with his Whanganui navigator Donna Thompson.
Whanganui's former Group B champion Hayden Wilson was more than happy to follow up his opening round victory with a third place at Meremere behind Owhango's Tim Edhouse and Hamilton's Karl Beaver, who both had faster boats than him on the speed-orientated course, but had not featured in the Top 5 at Shelterview.
Coley and Head remained deadlocked at the top of the Superboat standings, which guarantees some exciting racing at the last three rounds given both men are known for their high risk, high reward style.
"Fantastic day's racing," Coley said on Facebook.
"We had a close call, amazingly somehow we never binned it.
"That hair pin proved challenging throughout the day and we finished up second, which is awesome.
"Congratulations to Glen and Hayley [Todd], Rich and Steve [Edmonds], and to all the other racers who competed – everyone gave it everything they had it was a good entertaining day."
Coley's reaction was similar to all the other Whanganui drivers – they had given up a speed advantage but held their lines well enough to make the podium and remain in good overall points positions heading to the more technical tracks that will favour their craft.
After a loose start where he was lucky a plug leak did not damage the boat, Murray brought his qualifying times down to around the 47.6s mark and just got faster from there.
"We never went slower in any run.
"I was trying to crack 45s, but just didn't quite do it.
"There's still more in the boat and we're still learning this data logging."
Murray and his crew now have computer data readings of their engine so they can see where they are or aren't performing, and that includes the driver.
"Our throttle position told us we only 80 per cent all day, so there's another 20 per cent just in the throttle. That's on me," said Murray.
Murray got into the Top 3 ahead of Gisborne's Blake Briant, who had pipped him for that spot in Shelterview after Murray buttoned off slightly due to sunstrike in the Top 6 eliminator.
"It was close racing, he was right on our tail, and [Nick] Berryman went the wrong way, so that's pretty much his championship [gone]."
Murray's strategy now will be to keep his boat up there with Coley and Head, so he can take advantage should one of them have a spinout during early eliminators in the later rounds.
"Those twin turbos aren't the most reliable engines around. Even Peter Caughley had his problems.
"They all get their issues, even ours."
Travers and his son Shane, also driving the Radioactive boat this campaign, didn't have ideal buildup when their trailer split in two after arriving at Meremere, meaning Shane Travers had to make an 11pm dash into Cambridge on Friday to get some welding gear.
Ross Travers said the trailer had been damaged on their trip to Australia for the UIM World Series late last year.
That aside, the former Group B champion has pleased to pick up a consecutive third placing, with Silverton as expected too strong on his home track and now leading the series, with the Whanganui driver second.
"Early in the day, we were five seconds off Ollie, so to get it back to one second was good," said Travers.
The team had been given new engine blades and Travers opted to go back to the old ones.
"I put my trusty blades on, told the guy 'I want to see if it's me'. We picked up four seconds.
"That's the only time you get to test anything like that. So he'll go back to the drawing board and come up with something even better."
With Gibbon having finished outside the Top 5 in Shelterview, Travers now moves up into second overall in the point standings, after Rice dropped out in the Top 6 at Meremere.
"My plan this season is to keep doing what we're doing."
Father was also proud of son, as Shane Travers improved his finish to a seventh placing, his times only about two seconds off what Ross Travers was achieving.
"It won't be long, he's got his confidence up."
Wilson was also satisfied with his third placing, as Edhouse and Beaver went neck and neck for the victory.
"I found a little bit [of speed], but not enough to battle with them," he said.
Wilson put down a fastest time of 52.8s in the Top 6 eliminator to make it to the Top 3, but the other two were still consistently 0.5s quicker.
The Whanganui driver made an adjustment for his last lap, but it went slower instead of quicker.
"I had nothing to lose, I thought I had done everything I could, so made a radical change."
Nonetheless, Wilson continues to lead the series as the only driver to make the podium twice, and while he expects the fuel-injected engines of Edhouse and Beaver to be fast again at the next round, he is still backing himself under lights back at Shelterview and then the season finale in Wanaka.
"Absolutely, if I can podium the rest of the season, we'll be right up there."
After a nearly two month gap, it is a much quicker turnaround to the third round at the Riverside Jet Track in Hastings on March 3.
Round 2 Results
Superboats: 1. Glen Head/Hayley Todd (Hamilton); 2. Rob & Ange Coley (Whanganui); 3. Richard Murray/Steve Edmonds (Whanganui).
Group A: 1. Ollie Silverton/Jess Sit (Hamilton); 2. Simon Gibbon/Donna Thompson (Christchurch); 3. Ross Travers/Amanda Kittow (Whanganui).
Group B: 1. Tim & Debbie Edhouse (Owhango); 2. Karl Beaver/Jay Ammon (Hamilton); 3. Hayden Wilson/Aaron Greeks (Whanganui).