The Shelterview track was sorting out the pretenders from the contenders on a warm afternoon in the basin of the Upokongaro farm property this afternoon.
Opening round of the Mouthfresh New Zealand Jetsprint Championships was off to a good start as Whanganui Speed Week continued, with a good crowd building up to watch around 42 drivers and navigators looking to set their mark across the three divisions.
Whanganui is well represented with Shelterview owner Richard Murray and last season's 3NZ Rob Coley in the unlimited power Superboats, while Ross Travers and son Shane are doing a double drive of Radioactive in the limited power Group A's.
Former national champion Hayden Wilson and expat-Whanganui racer Kellie Minnell are competing in the development Group B class.
Shelterview with it's 27 rotations, hair pin corners and unevenly-shaped islands can catch out many a driver, as Waitara's Tony Reade discovered early in the qualifying runs in his new Group A boat, which rolled over with such velocity that his helmet was pulled right from his head.
Later in the third qualifying round, Hamilton's Group A driver Phil Dick had what former world champion and current commentator Leighton Minnell described as "two stabs at the pedal" and bounced out of the water, flipping over onto his roll cage before landing right way up in the middle of the main island in from of the judges tower.
There were no injuries in either case.
Even the track owner himself in Murray was not immune to mishap, as towards the end of a solid qualifying run, he and navigator Steve Edmonds had an engine flame-out at the top of the course and ended up on the bank.
Murray got the Meaner Machine firing again but opted to drive it straight back to the pits to assess any damage.
Returning to competition this season, Hamilton's Glen Head wasted no time in showing everyone he intended to be the heir-apparent to the retired Superboat legend Peter Caughey by putting down a blistering 49.996s lap, easily the quickest time of the day to that point as no-one else had dipped under 51s.
Coley and navigator wife Ange followed with a 51.304s lap, although he did noticeably button it back towards the latter half of the run, recognising there was plenty more work to do with another qualifier before entering the Top 9 eliminators.
Others like Rotorua's Nick Berryman got a little lost on their rotation, taking a DNF.
Hawke's Bay's Pip Thompson showed her experience as she clipped a tyre on the edge of an island late in her run, but managed to save it and complete the lap, avoiding the fate of Reade and Dick.
Among the Group A's, former navigator Shane Travers was still settling himself in the driver's seat with partner Hannah Berry, as he ran a 1m 1.387s lap, while his 3NZ father Ross with new navigator Amanda Kittow drove a more competitive 53.365s lap.
The pacemaker for their grade was Canterbury's Simon Gibbon with a 52.104s, just over 0.4s ahead of Hamilton's defending champion Ollie Silverton.
In the Group B's, Wilson teamed with Aaron Greeks to make a 58.981s run that was looking smooth at that early stage of the game.
"Good. Easy. It was a bit of a refresher," said the 2014 Group B champion.
There practice on the course before the event proved to be about two thirds similar to the rotation schedule chosen for the actual round.
Wilson was estimating a competitive Group B time would be somewhere in the 57-56s range.
"Maybe a 55s, someone many push one out."
He was mindful of Kelli Minnell, who had learnt well from her former champion husband to drive steady times early in the day, not giving away much to the opposition, and then turning it on in the later elimination races.
"I can't drive it slow, it doesn't react how I want it to react," said Wilson of his own style.
"So I put [my fastest time] out there, and there it is."
The Whanganui Chronicle will have full results tomorrow.