It's taken nearly three seasons, but Whanganui's Ross Travers was back on the top of the podium at the fifth round of the 2019-20 PSP New Zealand Jetsprint Championships in Waitara on Sunday afternoon.
Travers, who had come third in the Group A division at the previous Meremere round in February, after a rough start to the season, was now flying the Whanganui driver flag solo as the other locals did not make it to Waitara following a summer of engine problems.
Along with his navigator Amanda Kittow getting her first win, Travers date with destiny was nearly derailed during the morning qualifying runs when a new engine cooling hose blew, meaning water was spewing into the boat instead of travelling through the engine.
The team repaired the damage, even drilling a hole in another part of the engine, but Travers said for the Top 9 eliminator run, where they finished fourth, they forgot to switch back over to the new hose.
Somehow, with no cooling water, the Ian Coleman-built engine made it through the 40 second dash without blowing up.
"It got very, very hot," Travers said.
"It survived when really it shouldn't have done."
Travers was then the fastest qualifier in the Top 6 eliminator, making it through to what became a Top 4 final rather than three, alongside Taranaki's Neil Marshall, who has taken over the Waitara track from Whanganui expat Leighton Minnell, and was doing a double-drive in his boat with Te Awamutu's Patrick Haden.
Because Haden was on a one-day licence, Christchurch's season title contender Simon Gibbon and his Whanganui navigator Donna Thomson also made it through.
Marshall went first on his home track and made a 40.304s lap, which wasn't looking like fast enough, and so it proved when Gibbon when next and set down a 39.692s challenge.
However, Travers had already broken in to the 39.5s range in the Top 6, and topped it with a very smooth 39.397s run.
Changing over from Marshall, Haden got to go last but spun out and sat the boat on a track island, giving Travers his first Group A win since Upokongaro way back in April 2017, although he has made the podium many times since then.
"Meremere was a sprint track. [Waitara] was tight and twisty," he said.
"It was a good track, which I would have said even if we didn't go any good.
"To me, that's how a jetsprint track should be."
The win allowed Travers to play spoiler a little bit on the points table, and given this season's rules will see drivers drop one of the six rounds from their final tally, there is an outside mathematical chance the Whanganui driver could still finish with 3NZ again for the season.
That will require another victory at the final round on his home track at Upokongaro on April 4.
In the other divisions, Group B was won was New Plymouth's Kris Rasmussen, with Waikato's Karl Beaver second and Hawke's Bay's John Verry third.
Defending Superboat champion Glen Head kept his title hopes alive, with fellow Waikato driver Sam Newdick second and Featherston's previous Scott Donald coming third.
Travers is supported by Glasgow Engineering & Design, Stevo's Distributors, and Lincoln Sports & Social Club.